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Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within

Rittersberg, Bavaria 1750
The jailer's name was Aug. It had once been Augustus, but the boy
had none of his mother's pretensions, and no one still living knew
the longer appellation that made sense of the shorter—not even the
jailer's wife.

Right now Aug wished he'd taken the higher road his mother'd urged
and had ended up an officer in the army perhaps, or a local
magistrate or solicitor. For that matter, he would gratefully
trade places with the merchants or farmers, the ones sent to
destroy the Beast's family. Even being the executioner would be
better, for his duty would be carried out tomorrow in the sane
light of day and amidst the fear-salving crowd at the scaffold.
He'd rather be anyone and anywhere other than the village jailer
sitting where he was sitting at this moment—alone, at night.

Which was at the wooden table outside the dungeon door. Aug rooted
himself to the spot by sheer force of will, not because he was
brave (although he'd seen battle with the French and was brave
enough) but because it was his job, and to refuse would mean not
only the loss of it but loss of face in the village as well. He
told himself that the door was made of massive oak planks chosen
expressly for the purpose of confinement, and that the iron bar
that lay across it was the finest chastity belt ever given that
seductress,escape. But both the bar and the door had been invented
for the worst that a man could do. Who knew what the Beast was
capable of?


The pleas went far beyond shrieks of pain. He knew a man's scream
well enough. This was not a human body in pain; it was a soul's
anguish. It was the sound of the act of damnation.

Aug clutched the rough table in front of him as desperately as he

would grip an assailant's neck. His tanned and weathered face was
the shade of palest coffee, like the cast of fresh cream in a
brown wooden bucket. His eyes were fixed on the dungeon door. His
brain stopped reassuring itself about locks and hinges and began
reciting the rosary.

And still the cries went on. The screams became deeper and
gruffer; the words were taken over by snarls. . . .
Hall Mary, full of grace, have mercy on us poor sinners now and in
our hour of need . . .

And then stopped abruptly.

For what seemed like an eternity, there was only the sound of
Aug's own terrified heartbeat.

Then there was a snuffling sound, very close by, a low, huffing
grunt, like a pig in the dirt but darker, larger.

And something began to scratch at the door.

Chapter 1
Spring, 1995
Schloss Ritter, Rittersberg, Germany
UNTITLED Blake Backlash adventure by Gabriel Knight chapter 1, page 1

More than a year since his last tag case, Blake Backlash found himself
stuck in a dilapidated castle. He's supposed to be some kind of hero,
having inherited late Uncle Daemon's role of "Guardian of Truth and
Light" along with this wreck of a family fortress. What Uncle D.
didn't explain was what the hell that meant. The most exciting
developments of the past year involved building plaster and a lot of
hammering. It was enough to drive a scion to seek out the highest
ramparts and throw himself over. Still, he reasoned, things could be
worse. If it wasn't for all the money he'd stolen from the voodoo
hounfour before it went up into flames, he'd still be reading by
candlelight and freezing his balls off in this Bavarian refrigerator.

Fortunately, Blake was about to be rescued from the ordeal of self-

reflection. Brunhilde brings in the mail one chilly spring morning and
he finds a mysterious package— postmark: India. Curious, he rips open
the thick brown wrapper and out falls

"Out falls . . ." Gabriel Knight muttered, staring at the page in the
typewriter with knotted brow. His fingers thrummed on the desk.

There followed a long and ultimately unproductive pause.

"Damn ill"

He struck his hand on the table in frustration and ripped the page
from the typewriter's grasp. The opening wasn't bad—it was what
came next that sucked. He'd had a brief glimmer about a haunted
ashram last night, but in the glare of the waiting page, Blake
Backlash in a sari revealed itself as worse than unbelievable; it
was self-parody. He wadded up the sheet of paper and sent it
sailing to the floor, where it was happily reunited with a few
dozen of its closest relatives.
For the tenth time since dinner he got up and paced over to the
window. Down below, the town of Rittersberg should have been
asleep, disappearing as its lights were put out, one by one. But
the lights in many of the homes still shone, the village floating
on the darkness. For this reason Gabriel mistakenly deduced that
it was earlier than it actually was, and his self-recrimination
eased just a bit.

Still time to come up with something before bedtime, or at least

assuage the recalcitrant muses with a show of faith.

Were those flashlights down below?

He'd just put a fresh sheet in the typewriter when a knock came at
the library door. Not surprisingly, it was Gerde Hull, the only
other human being living at Schloss Ritter. Gerde had served
great-uncle Wolfgang as housekeeper too—for years, it seemed.
Still, she was a quite attractive blonde, despite her air of
having walked these halls for eons.

Not that he'd noticed.

"Herr Knight? Some people are downstairs to see you."

"What, now?" The natives had not exactly beaten a path to his
door, even in the light of day.

But Gerde had that serious look on her face. "Yes, Herr Knight.
Will you please come down?"

He leaned back in his chair and studied her. "What's up? You've
been actin' weird all day."

She had, in fact, been gone most of the day, and when she'd
finally served him dinner, her surreptitious glances had been
heavier than the hackbraten.

"Just come downstairs, please. And don't forget your talisman."

She observed its position on the desk critically. "You should wear
it. Always."

"Damn thing's heavy," Gabriel muttered defensively as he slipped

the chain over his head. But Gerde was already gone, pointedly
leaving the door open behind her.

Gerde was waiting for him at the castle's front doors. He joined
her at one of the massive handles, and together they pulled.

He was blinded by the glare of flashlights—a lot of flashlights.

He stole a glance at Gerde as the beams were being politely
redirected. The Determined One did not look back.
Ah! It overcame him with a wave of deja vu. The image he was
recalling was not an experience of his own; it was the imprint
left by watching too many 1950s Hammer films.

He smiled satirically. "Shouldn't those be torches?"

Werner Huber stepped forward. The tall old man was Gerde's uncle
and the owner of the local gasthof, a man so traditional he made
The Sound of Music look like counterculture. He was clearly
spokesman of this group, as one of the few English speakers in the
village. And he was not amused.

"Herr Knight, we have come for the Schattenjager."

He used the formal title—Schattenjager, Shadow Hunter. It was as

dramatic a gesture as the midnight visit, but for some reason,
perhaps it was the old man's expression, Gabriel suddenly found
the situation not at all funny. "Really? What seems to be the

Werner put his hand on the shoulder of a small, plain-looking man.

"This is my cousin, the Huber Sepp. He has a farm up north, just
outside of Munich."

Huber gazed up at Gabriel with red, swollen eyes.

"Two nights ago his daughter Toni was outside playing in the
grass. There is a forest along his property, yes? And the child
liked to play close to the trees."

Gabriel's stomach began to tighten. No, this was definitely not


"It was getting dark, and the mother goes to the door to call in
the child. She sees Toni at the edge of the woods. Then she sees
something else—a wolf, she thinks. It is huge, and it is moving
toward the child!"

Sepp Huber was looking at the ground.

"She screams to Toni a warning and begins to run toward her. Sepp
is in the barn. He hears his wife screaming and knows that
something is terribly wrong. He grabs his gun and conies out, but
by now it is already too late."

Werner glanced at Sepp, past Sepp, and Gabriel realized that the
woman was here, the mother. She was a tiny, round thing. She
stepped out from her husband's side so that Gabriel could see her
better or, perhaps, so that she could see him. Her eyes were gray
and long-lashed. There was something dire in them.

"They say she died quickly," Werner concluded.

"She did," the mother said in a thick but firm voice.

Gabriel felt a terrible weight press on him. It seemed to come
through her eyes.

"It was dragging her away," she said. "I didn't know if she was
dead, but I was not about to let that . . . that thing ... I
grabbed for her foot, but her boot..."

The night fell silent except for the sound of crickets. Her mouth
remained open for a moment, as though she would go on, but it
slowly closed.

Gabriel glanced at Werner. The old man shook his head solemnly.
"They buried the remains of Toni yesterday." He took out a
handkerchief and wiped his brow. "It was a very small box, Herr

"I'm . . . sorry," Gabriel said. He felt a sick dread at the

story's images.

"You can help them," Gerde replied.

Gabriel shot her a glance. What did she expect him to do?

"Haven't you notified the police?" he asked gently.

"Ja, naturlich\" Werner replied disdainfully. "The police believe

it is wolves escaped from a zoo! This is not the first such
killing, Herr Knight. There have been others, all near Munich. And
the police, they find nothing!"

Gabriel blinked at the old man, startled. "There have been other
wolf attacks?"

"Other attacks, yes. All in the past few weeks. But the killer is
not a wolf, Herr Knight." Werner was looking at him as though he
were stupid.

"But you just said . . ."

"I saw it." The quiet words came from the mother, and it silenced
all others effortlessly.

"What did you see, Frau Huber?"

She stared at Gabriel unswervingly. "It was not a wolf, Herr

Knight. It was a beast—something bad, something terrible. And its
eyes ... its eyes were human."

Her own beautiful and dreadful eyes sent a chill through him as
she said this. His mind conjured up a wolf's howl to chase the
goose bumps on his spine. It would almost be funny if it wasn't so
goddamn awful, if these people weren't serious, and if he wasn't
suddenly so creeped out.

"Are you saying it was a ... a ..."

"Werewolf," Werner said.


"I have told them that you are the new Schatten-jager," Gerde
interjected helpfully. "Wolfgang said it was meant to be before he

"I know, I—"

But Gerde and Werner had obviously worked out a tag-team approach
in advance, for Werner did not let him speak. "Are you the
Schattenjager, Herr Knight? Or are you not?"

You had to hand it to the old guy, he was blunt. Werner's bushy
eyebrows furrowed at him in the battery-operated brightness, and
Gabriel understood that his choice in this matter would mean a lot
more than whether or not he'd be hanging out in Munich for a few
weeks. After all, he'd come to this tiny German village a family
heir, bearer of the blood that had named the town, the Ritters.
He'd been chosen successor to a strange priestly tradition these
people took as seriously as they took their lederhosen. This might
be a forgotten part of the world, but the villagers themselves
knew damn well who they were and what they believed in.

But it was his heritage, after all, not theirs.

Gabriel crossed his arms stubbornly. "Of course I am."

Werner grunted. "Then you will do it? You will find the werewolf
and kill it?"

"Well, I'd be happy to look into it for you. See what I can find
out, but ..."

"Yes! Good!" Werner clapped his hands together. "Sepp and Christa
go to Regensburg to be with her mother. Their farm will be empty
for a while—you can stay there. Meet us at the gasthof in one

Before Gabriel could even speak, Werner and the others were
walking away.

"I'll go pack your things," Gerde said. She actually smiled at him
for a change.

"Great. Thanks," Gabriel deadpanned. He opened his mouth to have

it out with her, but she was already slipping inside.

He was not at all surprised to find a bag packed and waiting for
him when he reached his room sixty seconds later. He supposed
she'd figured he'd need it either way—whether he took the case or
It was a stiff neck that woke him well before noon. He was up from
the couch where he'd slept in an instant, excited about being on a
new case, though he told himself it might well lead nowhere. He'd
noticed little about the Huber farmhouse when he'd arrived last
night; he was too tired and it was too dark. In the light of day
the traditional plaster-and-frame home was clean and uncluttered.
One room done in oak furniture and country prints served as
kitchen, dining, and living rooms. A doorway led to a hall, the
bedrooms, and a bath. It was a bit too cutesy for his taste, and
the sense of Toni Huber rested on everything like invisible

He opened his suitcase, anxious to be on his way. Right on top was

yesterday's unopened mail—a letter from Grace—stuck in there by a
certain meddling hausfrau. He frowned as he pulled out a clear
pair of jeans and a white T-shirt. A new case. He should call
Grace. He ripped open the letter with a sigh.
St. George's Books, New Orleans Gabriel:

I have an amazing new preternatural phenomenon to tell you about—sales

have actually been picking up around the shop. I know it's too bizarre to
be true, but I swear I've seen it with my own eyes. In other fortean
shockers, that Blake Backlash epic, The Voodoo Murders, is up to #20 on
the New York Times paperback best-seller list. Avonly has deposited a
couple more checks, and your U.S. bank account is blossoming—not unlike
the desert after a fluke storm.

So have you made your decision yet? I know I'm bugging you about it, but—
look, I can still register for classes next fall if I hurry. If you
decide to sell the shop and move to Germany, that's fine, but I really
need to know. Okay?

Anyway, I've been reading up on a little German as well as anything

occult I can find. I've also been getting three major newspapers. Haven't
seen anything that looks like a case so far. Have you?

Write soon. Grace

"Gaaaaaaaad” Gabriel tossed the letter down and rubbed his eyes.

Grace Nakimura had been preying on his mind for a while now. This
was not the first letter of its kind, and it made him feel . . .
well, guilty. After the Voodoo Murders case she'd asked to stay on
at the shop, excited by some Chandler-esque vision, wanting to
help out with this whole Schattenjager business. It had seemed
like a fine idea at first. She'd practically taken over the grunt
work of the shop that summer, and she'd done a lot of research for
the case as well. Besides, he liked her. She had a funny,
sarcastic kind of charm that suited him, a New York bluntness that
made him laugh. She wasn't hard on the eyes either. Sweet kid,
really, though she had a crust on her that could bruise a lesser
man, and her brain was more trouble than it was worth.

Rather like Gerde, now that he thought about it.

But on the strength of his unthought-out agreement she'd dropped
her plans for her Ph.D. and taken up shopkeeping for him full-
time, something that had to be dead boring to a girl like her. And
there hadn't been any more cases for over a year. It was precisely
this sort of dependency and responsibility that he dreaded, the
reason he avoided like the plague any meaningful relationship with
a woman. And the stupidest part was—he wasn't even sleeping with

He'd been planning for months to write to her and urge her to go
back to school, but he hadn't yet. He didn't know why he hadn't,
except . . .

He read the letter again and sighed. What a nut. He did kinda miss

"All right," Gabriel muttered. "Okay."

He sat down and began to write, but his writer's block had
seemingly transferred itself to simple correspondence. He made
several attempts, then realized, with some surprise, what his hand
already knew; he didn't want Gracie here.

He leaned back, thought about it. It probably wasn't a real case

anyway, he told himself. Nothing supernatural, that was; it would
turn out to be some kind of normal animal or other—had to be. And
by the time she got over here from the States it would all be
over, anyway.

That's what he told himself.

He looked at his watch and did some quick, halting math. If he

called now, there was no way she'd be at the shop—he could just
leave a message. He made the call, grabbed his black leather
jacket, and walked outside.

The morning was crisp, cold, and cloudless. The forest was just as
Werner described it: a dense bank of trees edging a long, sloping
lawn, and then the fields that marched away over the rolling
landscape. To the right were a stone barn and the driveway that
led to the road. Gabriel began at the house and walked slowly
toward the woods on a path his mind conjured for Frau Huber. He
studied the grass beneath his feet, soggy from spring rain.

He reached the woods and saw nothing at the spot he had chosen.
But twenty feet away there were footsteps and trampled grass, even
the marks of narrow wheels. The police had been here and the
coroner probably. This was the site. He stood still and looked

The birds were warbling unconcernedly, the grass was sending up

new green shoots, and the farm had a crisp, earthy texture, like
biting into an apple, that painted an idyllic moment straight out
of State Fair. How could anything ever go bad in a place like
this? But something had gone bad, very bad indeed. The knowledge
of what had happened was made even more tragic in this setting.

He studied the footprints, the invasive and eradicating marks of

the investigators, and tried to look beyond them. He found the
edge of the prints corresponded with a matted section of grass. He
trod carefully, leaned in, and found a trace of blood, flattened
grass— a paw print in the soft earth.

He took a step back, feeling queasy. He'd not recognized the print
at first. His eyes had insisted it was yet another footprint a bit
beyond the others. The thing was enormous, easily the size of a
small man's shoe, and as large as Gabriel's own outstretched hand.
The pad was narrow and arrow-shaped, and topped by four oval

Did wolf paws really get that big?

He walked back to the barn and pulled open the sliding wooden
door. It was neat inside, with bags of fertilizer, grain, and
power equipment arranged against the walls and in bins. He found
what he was looking for—a half-used bag of cement. He mixed a
small dose of the stuff in a metal pitcher and walked back to the
site of the attack, poured the cement into the print indentation.

It would take a while to set.

He left the pitcher at the site and moved back around through the
trees. The woods brought the abrupt chill of shade and dampness,
and his jacket got wet as he pushed past piney limbs. He glanced
back toward the pitcher on the ground, threading his way along
until he could barely see it.

From which direction had the wolf come?

If he were a woodsman, he could read the snapping of twigs and

disturbance of leaves, but to a French Quarter boy everything out
here looked the same— wet, cold, and green. So he tried to use his
writer's instinct instead. He circled through the trees, eyeing
the pitcher, trying to see a little girl where it stood. It was
not a pleasant visualization, for he knew what came next. He kept
glancing at the ground, hoping for another print, but the floor of
the woods was coated with pine needles, dead leaves, and berry
vines, making it a less impressionable surface than the wet sod.

When he was as far south of the house as he could go and still

keep the pitcher in his line of sight, he felt he'd found the
vantage point. He didn't know how he felt it, but he did. He
stood, breathing hard in the chilly silence, staring through the
woods at the grass. He succeeded so well in placing the wolf here
in his mind that he began to feel eyes on his back. He turned
nervously—and saw nothing but the trees.
He began moving toward the pitcher on a sharp diagonal. He
crouched, slunk.

And broke into a small clearing. It was not a clearing exactly,

just a break in the trees only six feet or so across, but the
ground was even here, a natural high point, and the vines cleared
way for moss. He stopped and looked down, certain that the wolf
had stood here. Wasn't it a perfect spot for reconnaissance? He
didn't see any prints; the moss was spongy and hard.

He bent down and peered at the forest floor from mere inches away,
scanning the moss with his hands as well as his eyes. Something
stuck to his fingers.

He was certain it was only a leaf or moss fuzz, but he was wrong.
It was hair, several strands of coarse hair, each an inch or so
long. He bent down again, and this time his eyes knew what to look
for. He found another clump of strands and a few singles near the
edge. He gathered them carefully with his wet fingers and placed
them in his palm. They were reddish-brown in color, the color of a
light cherry stain, and the tips of them, the last quarter inch or
so, were white.

They're its hairs. The beast's. It sat right here and watched Toni
Huber, maybe even waited for her; which meant that it had been
here before, was stalking her.

He knew he was jumping to conclusions, but damn if it didn't feel

like the truth, especially squatting here like this with those
hairs against the skin of his hand.

There had to be some way to find out if he was right.

He found nothing else in the woods. He was standing in the yard,

considering his next move, when he noticed the newspaper and
mailboxes out on the main road. He walked down the driveway and
found that he was in luck. There was a feature article on the wolf
killings on the front page of the Freistaat Bayern Zeitung.
Unfortunately, he'd spent more time in the castle this past year
than out of it, and he'd further discovered that his natural ear
for language was apparently deaf. Still, he could make out a few
things. The headline on the article, "Zwei Killerwolfe aus dem Zoo
immer noch auf freiemfufi," was legible enough to his American
eyes to pick up the fact that the Munich papers considered the
case to be about two killer wolves from the zoo. It had a photo of
wolves at the zoo, though probably not the ones that had escaped,
and it had another picture of a bald, heavyset man at a press
conference. The man was identified as "Krimi-nalkommisar Leber aus
dem Polizeirevier am Prinzreg-entenplatz." And the name of the zoo
was given— "Tierpark Hellabrunn."

Christa Huber had advised against driving in the city. There was
an U-Bahn stop just up the road in Lockham, she'd said; park the
car and take the subway from there. Gabriel took her advice,
grabbing his German-English pocket dictionary and his hand-held
tape recorder from the car before locking it. He'd recorded most
of his conversations on the last case— even before he'd known it
was a case. The idea had originally been to make the construction
of a novel easier, but the tapes proved critical to unraveling the
heart of the Voodoo Murders. It was one of the few things he'd
done right.

The subway map showed a stop for Prinzregenten-platz up the U4

line from downtown. The zoo was listed too, at the Thalkirchen
stop on the U3. Gabriel headed downtown.

He'd been to Munich three times in the past year— twice on his own
when bored to tears and once last December when Gerde dragged him
up here for the Christkindlmarkt. He'd come to Germany a few
months after the death of Malia and the destruction of the voodoo
hounfour. Part of it had been to settle Wolfgang's estate, but
mostly he'd wanted to get away from New Orleans, from the memory
of the dark-skinned woman who had been the first true love of his
life, the woman he'd pretty much murdered. He never dreamed he'd
stay this long. He found he needed to be in Schloss Ritter, to be
surrounded by the very real evidence of the Schattenjager past in
order for him to retain any belief in it at all. So he'd stayed at
the castle and worked (or tried to)—yet another form of catharsis.
He hadn't gotten out much.

The stop at Prinzregentenplatz was a bust. Gabriel found the

polizei sign without too much trouble, but getting past the
bloodhound at the desk was another matter. The officer cum
receptionist set his stare to stun even before the words
"Kriminalkommisar Leber" came out of Gabriel's mouth. Once they
had, well, a rotweiler with hemorrhoids would have been more
gracious. Leber, Gabriel managed to gather from the officer's
indecipherable German, was either off bounds, inaccessible, or
just plain not there.

He was not invited to return.

The zoo was considerably more congenial. "The Tierpark is a

natural habitat zoo," the English brochure informed him. That
further translated into a lot of walking.

He located the wolves twenty minutes from the gate. A sign showed
a picture of a wolf and read CANIS LUPUS LUPUS, EUROPEAN WOLF in
several languages. Beyond it was a ditch, then a wood and wire
fence, then a broad, park-like setting. The wolves themselves were
inactive. A half dozen were visible from the main path, all lying
around under the trees, where they were sheltered a bit from
prying eyes. They were slight and gray. They did not look
particularly ferocious.
Gabriel heard the squeak of wheels and turned to see a slight,
dark-haired young man coming down the path. He was pushing a cart,
and he wore brown coveralls with the park's logo. The young man
took a hitherto unnoticed path back into a chain-link kennel
structure that was mostly hidden by brush. He poured the contents
of a sack into a steel trough. A few of the wolves glanced up, but
none of them moved. Whatever the pellets were, they weren't
exactly high on the wolves' priority list.

The young man returned to the cart and said something briefly into
a walkie-talkie. Gabriel strolled over.

"Hey! Do you speak English?"

"Yes. Do you have a question?"

"Yeah, actually." Gabriel gave the boy his most winning smile. "My
name's Gabriel Knight."

The boy nodded with little interest.

"Hey, I saw you walk into that kennel . . . um . . ."


"Thomas. Nice to meet ya. Weren't you scared at all, Thomas?"

Thomas slouched in a display of bored machismo. "No! I go in there

all the time."

"Really? That takes some balls—especially with the recent

killin's. The two wolves got out of here, right?"

The boy looked uneasy. "Yes."

"When was that exactly?"

"About a month ago. Are you a reporter?"

Gabriel gave him an innocent smile. "No, novelist. I'm just

curious about wolves. Do you know what happened? Did they get over
the fence or what?"

Thomas nodded toward the kennel door. "Doktor Klingmann thinks the
night attendant left the door open." Thomas rolled his eyes to
indicate how very large an error this was—akin, perhaps, to
wearing one's pajamas to school or knocking one's wedding ring
down the kitchen drain.

Gabriel whistled. "That sucks. You weren't on duty that night,

were ya?"

Thomas shook his head. "I work days only. The guy who was working,
he was . . . you know." Thomas made a throat-slitting gesture.

Thomas nodded grimly.

"Hmmm. What about the wolves—there were two that got out, right?"

"Hilda and Parsival."

Gabriel arched a sardonic brow. "Oh, yeah? What did Hilda and
Parsival look like?"

Thomas pointed toward the habitat. "Like that."

Gabriel bit back a sarcastic remark. "I know, but were they the
same color? These guys look kinda gray from here."

"Ja, gray. Hilda was young still—only about a year old. She was
light gray with white at her chest. Parsival was a male, older,
maybe five years. He was darker gray. They get darker when they
get older."

"Not . . . reddish at all?"

Thomas looked perplexed and shook his head. He brushed his

coveralls self-consciously, as if wondering why Gabriel kept
staring at them.

Gabriel switched his gaze to the wolves. "What about temperament?

Did you ever think those two could do something like this?"

For the first time Thomas seemed to have a real opinion. "No. Not
possible." He wagged his head angrily.

"Not possible? They are carnivores, right?"

But Thomas just repeated his opinionated gesture. "I know the
wolves. They can be dangerous. Maybe even bite if you move too
fast. But kill and eat people! Nein. Not these wolves. Hilda was
still a puppy, and Parsival, he was okay, a little slow maybe. He
was not so mean, like some of the other males."

Gabriel thought about this for a moment.

Thomas grew restless. "Well, I must . . ."

"Thomas, is there any way at all ..." He gave the boy a sheepish
grin. "I'd really love to get a good look at one of the wolves.
For a book I'm workin' on. Just for a second."

Thomas chuckled low and ironic. "Not possible!"

Gabriel sighed. "Yeah. All right. Who's this Dr. Klingmann you

"Herr Doktor Klingmann is in charge of the mammal division."

"So he'd be the man to talk to about seeing one of the wolves up

Thomas smirked. "Sure. Yes. Why don't you go ask him?"

Dr. Klingmann's office was in the administration building at the

other end of the park. Gabriel sat on a bench outside,
contemplating his next move. Of course, Thomas was having him on.
Besides the smirk there was the fact that anyone who would require
the park employees to call him "Herr Doktor" had to have a stick
up his butt the size of Wyoming. No matter what cover story
Gabriel thought up, the scene played out the same way. Klingmann
would never grant him access to see one of the wolves. He couldn't
pretend to be a veterinarian; the park would have their own. An
animal-rights activist would be thrown out on his ear, and "health
inspector" wouldn't wash either—he was too obviously a non-native.
He couldn't even fake a good accent.

This case was going to be a lot tougher than his last one, when
such deceptions had not only been possible, they'd worked and had
paid big dividends.

Could he get around the wolf thing? Gabriel shook his head in
answer. There was only one way to determine if the beast that had
been at the Huber farm was one of the escaped zoo wolves, and that
was pretty much what this entire case hinged on, wasn't it?
Unfortunately, he hadn't seen any of what he needed on Thomas's

What about the police? Wouldn't they have the answer right there
in their files?

Gabriel sighed. Presumably. They might not have found what he

found in the woods at the Huber farm, but chances were good that
they'd found it at one of the crime scenes. Unfortunately, the
police weren't talking to Gabriel Knight.

And that was when he got an idea.

Gabriel's knock was answered by a reedy male voice.

"Kommen Sie!"

He entered a sterile-looking office. The room was of decent size,

but the plain cream walls, blue carpeting, and bonded wood desk
made it look like a rental. The only human touches in the room
were, oddly, non-human. A large print of wolves was the only art,
and below it was a cheap display case that contained an animal
skull, what looked like pelts, and various anatomical models of
wolves, foxes, and other carnivores.

The man behind the desk was looking up at him blankly. "Kann ich
Ihnen helfen?"
"Dr. Klingmann? My name is Gabriel Knight." Gabriel walked forward
and stretched out his hand. The man accepted it coolly.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Knight?"

Klingmann was a thin, loose-skinned man. His light brown hair was
on its way south, and wire-rimmed glasses gave a scholarly
pensiveness to a thin, intense face that might otherwise have
looked peevish.

"I was hopin' I could do a quick interview with ya, Doctor,"

Gabriel said, laying on the twang. (For some reason, people seemed
to associate the Southern accent with honesty and harmlessness, if
not actual stupidity.) "Ya see, I'm workin' on a novel about
wolves? I have a few books on the market in the U.S."


"Well, I read about this situation here in Munich, with the zoo
wolves escapin' and all? And I thought to myself, well, innit that
unusual? You don't get a chance to see what captivity-raised
wolves’ll do in an urban setting very often."

Klingmann dropped his pen and leaned back. "No. That's true. I do
not have much time, unfortunately ..."

"Just a few real quick questions. 'Course, I'll give you credit in
the acknowledgments. Send ya a copy. I do appreciate the help of
experts like yourself."

Klingmann drummed his fingers on his chair arm for a moment, then
waved reluctantly at a visitor's chair. "Sit down. Mr. Knight."

"Thanks." Gabriel sat down and pulled out his tape recorder. "Ya
don't mind, do ya? My memory leaves somethin' to be desired."

Klingmann made an uninterested acquiescence.

"I was out lookin' at the wolves just now, and I ran into one of
your feeders, a young boy, Uh . . . Frank was it?"

Klingmann looked at him blankly.

"Or, uh, Todd?"

"Thomas?" Klingmann asked, as if he could hardly see the


Gabriel taped his forehead in a duh gesture. "Thomas! Right!

Aren't ya worried about sendin' people into the kennels now that
it's been proven that the wolves are man eaters?"

Klingmann smiled indulgently. "The park employees are in no danger

as long as they follow the safety guidelines that I myself have
laid out."
"Uh-huh. But you do think these killin's are the work of the two
escaped wolves?"

Klingmann's smile faded. "I don't know what else it could be." The
tenseness in his voice was painful.

"Wild wolves?"

"There haven't been wild wolves in Germany for centuries. There

might be a few small packs left in the Alps, but otherwise . . ."
Klingmann glared at him dully. "Surely you know something about
wolves if you're to write about them?"

It took an effort, but Gabriel tried to appear grateful. "Yeah,

Doc, I sure do, thanks for askin'. But I'm less familiar with
Germany's situation specifically."

Klingmann made a dismissive gesture. "What happened to wolves

happened here first, in Europe. The farmers wanted to protect
their livestock so they put a price on the wolves' heads. Money
hunters killed entire species. It happened the same way in America
in the eighteen hundreds."

"That's true, but I was thinkin' that with all the new animal-
protection laws, a few of those packs maybe moved back in? It has
to be somethin' the police have considered. Right, Doc?"

Klingmann heaved an impatient sigh. "People refer to me as Herr

Doktor Klingmann here."

"Of course, Herr Doktor. I do apologize."

"And the police have considered it. I told them what I tell you—
there are no wild wolves anywhere near here."

"Right. Thanks. I suppose, knowin' wolves as you do, you have some
idea of why these two wolves would behave like this?"

Klingmann frowned. As before, Gabriel sensed it was a reaction to

the question itself, not the deliverer. It was hardly surprising.
This man was in charge of the wolves, and two of them had escaped
and were now mutilating little girls. He was obviously a priggish
ass, but he still had to feel the public pressure, if not actual
personal liability.

"As much as we might like to compare wolves to dogs, they are not
domesticated creatures, Mr. Knight. Even those that are raised as
pets from birth are unpredictable. They're wild animals."

"Yes, Herr Doktor," Gabriel said meekly. He felt like he should

have a pencil in his hand.

"Morality—that is our invention. It has nothing to do with the

wild, with nature."
Gabriel blinked in surprise—both at the idea and the enthusiasm of
the delivery—but he nodded agreeably.

"A wolf would have no moral compunction about killing a human

versus, say, a deer. It makes no distinction between the two."

"Even though these wolves are raised among humans?" Gabriel asked.

"Their comfort with humans only makes things worse." Klingmann

smiled tightly. "Wild wolves might avoid our homes, our cities,
because of their strangeness. Zoo wolves would do the opposite.
They're used to relating food with humans."

Gabriel nodded his head humbly. "Well, that sure makes sense to
me. So, assumin' they would eat a human being, how would the
wolves go about choosin' a victim? Would they be capable of, say,
returnin' to a spot where they'd seen a potential victim? Of

"Oh, yes!" Klingmann said, eyes shining. "As for choosing a victim
. . . Have you heard about the Language of Death?"


"Ever since Darwin it has been accepted that predators like wolves
participate in natural selection; that they choose the old, the
sick, or the very young and thus 'cull the herd.' "Klingmann
leaned forward intently. "At first glance that appears to be the
case, but for the past few decades researchers have been camping
out with wolf packs, and they've been finding anomalies."

"Such as?"

"For example, a pack of wolves surround a sick moose cow. She can
barely stand, but she does stand, and she glares back at the
wolves that surround her. The wolves break up, back away."

The cow must have been related to Grace, he thought. He muttered

an articulate "Huh."

"Recently one of the researchers proposed a new theory—the

Language of Death. It says that predator and prey have a kind of
agreement whose rules have been handed down genetically. The
wolf's chase says, 'I am Death. Are you ready to go?' And the
individual members of the herd, by their action or inaction say,
'No, I am not ready,' or 'Yes, take me.' "

Gabriel arched a light brown eyebrow quizzically. "Doesn't the

herd pretty much just . . . ran?"

Klingmann chuckled. "It may look that way to the untrained eye,
but there are patterns. Maybe one doesn't run, or maybe one runs
in a direction apart from the herd, making themselves an easy
Gabriel rubbed his chin. "That's very interestin', Herr Docktor,
but how does it explain the recent killin's?"

"The Language of Death explains many things! First, the extinction

of the wolves. Why did the farmer hunt the wolf? Not because the
wolf took a cow or goat now and then, but because a wolf in a
domestic herd went on a killing frenzy. And why? Because the
stupid cattle do not know the language!"

"So ... as far as this case goes, maybe humans don't know the
Language? Is that what you're sayin'?"

Klingmann looked at Gabriel in surprise. And there was something

else on his face, something fearful. "Yes," he said simply. He
neatened the book on his desk. "This is not the first time wolves
have eaten human beings, Mr. Knight. Lions do it, tigers do it.
When wolves and humans coexisted, they did it too. The Language of
Death simply explains why they might do it in a particularly
brutal and senseless fashion."

Klingmann glanced at his watch. "Now I'm afraid I really must get
back to work."

Gabriel rose reluctantly and gave Klingmann a lopsided grin.

"Well, I really appreciate your time. One more thing, though. I
was wonderin' if it might be possible for you to show me one of
the wolves up close? For my work?"

Klingmann gave him a frozen, put-upon smile. "We don't 'show' our
wolves to anyone, Mr. Knight. You may look as long as you'd like—
from the path."

Gabriel headed back to the Huber farm. He picked up the paw print,
which had dried. He cleaned it off in the barn's sink. The
impression was a good one.

Then he went inside and rummaged through the Hubers' kitchen

drawers. He found what he was looking for—another tape recorder.
The Hubers' model was an older, clunky one. On it was a recording
of Toni Huber singing "Silent Night" in German. He played it
twice, just because it ripped his heart out. The flip side was

He sat down at the kitchen table and reviewed his taped

conversation with Klingmann, taking notes. Then he made the new

It took him an hour of skulking around the zoo for the right
opportunity to arise. It came at the kangaroo habitat. A perky
teenage fraulein was giving a tour to a group of schoolchildren.
She wore a brown T-shirt with the park logo, and next to her was a
small pushcart. On the cart was a walkie-talkie.
Gabriel sat and watched the group for about ten minutes, until his
break came. One little girl wandered down the fence. She began
yelling and pointing excitedly at a mother whose baby was sticking
its head out of her pouch. The girl in the park shirt ushered the
children down the fence to see the wonders of marsupial

She left the cart behind.

Gabriel walked over as quickly as he could without being obvious.

He grabbed the walkie-talkie, held down the Send button, and
played the first few seconds of the tape in his tape recorder.
Klingmann's voice said, "Thomas?"

He waited, holding his breath. The walkie-talkie beeped and came

on in his hand. "Thomas here."

Gabriel suppressed a giggle and played the rest of the message.

"Herr Doktor Klingmann here. Show our wolves to Mr. Knight."

Thomas's voice came back genuinely amazed. "Ja, Herr Doktor. I go

to the wolf habitat right away."

Thomas was waiting for him. "Hello Mr. Knight. I was asked to show
you one of the wolves. Please stay close to me and remain calm.
Don't make any quick moves."

"Sure," Gabriel said, his smile fading. Maybe this wasn't such a
hot idea after all.

The two went down the path to the kennel, and Thomas unlocked the

The kennel enclosure was roughly ten by twenty feet with the door
on one end and the other end open to the habitat. Thomas paused
inside the door.

"Stay here," he said nervously. He walked over to the habitat

opening and took what looked like a dog biscuit out of his pocket.
"Margarite? Schau mal was ich hier hub! Na komm' mal her!"

He squatted down and called out softly, as though hoping to avoid

summoning all of the wolves. He seemed to be addressing a smallish
wolf that was under a tree not far from the kennel. Several of the
larger wolves glanced in their direction, including, Gabriel
noticed, one large, dark wolf that was obviously a male. He cocked
his head as though to see past Thomas, and when his eyes found
Gabriel, they locked on. The animal's ear stood to attention, but
he didn't rise.

Yes, this had made a lot more sense from outside the kennel.

"Margarite! Komm' her! Komm' mal her Ma'dchen!" Thomas cajoled.

The slight female rose with a yawn, as if barely interested. She
padded over to the kennel. Gabriel was amazed at the length and
delicacy of her legs. The large paws only accentuated this
thinness and gave the wolf a puppyish air. Gabriel thought
Margarite must look like Hilda as Thomas described her.

Thomas gave Margarite the biscuit, which she daintily ate. He

moved to one side so that Gabriel could get a better look.

"Margarite's about fourteen months old," Thomas explained in a low

voice. He seemed calmer now that things were going smoothly. "She
came to us from a zoo in Amsterdam when she was very little

While Thomas was busy watching Margarite, Gabriel was taking

careful steps forward. He held his breath, desperate not to
startle Margarite away before he'd gotten what he came for.

"Get back!" Thomas hissed as Gabriel approached his left side.

But Margarite was not alarmed. She looked up at Gabriel with

clear, curious eyes. She made a low whining noise and dipped her
head at him, sat on her haunches, and walked her front paws
forward a bit. She dipped her head again.

"That's strange," Thomas said, dumbfounded. "She likes you."

"I have a way with women," Gabriel quipped. He squatted down next
to Thomas.

"I don't think it's a good idea . . ."

But Gabriel was already reaching out a hand. He stroked

Margarite's head. She panted, looking at him with large brown

"Mr. Knight, please don't touch her!" Thomas hissed angrily.

"She's fine," Gabriel replied, which was perfectly true. He dug

his fingers into her fur and tugged gently, pulled his hand back,
and stuck it in his coat pocket.

"That's enough!" Thomas put a hand on Gabriel's arm.

It was just about then that something explosive struck the chain-
link wall to their left. They felt and heard the impact a split second
before the cacophony that followed told them what it was.

It was a large gray wolf, the male that had spotted Gabriel earlier.
He was standing on his hind legs, his front paws up against the fence.
He was snarling and snapping his teeth, growling in rage, his eyes a
frenzy of attack lust.

Gabriel uttered a cry of surprise and lost his balance. He fell back
onto the ground, reached out to scramble to his feet, lost his
footing, and went down again on one knee. Thomas grabbed his arm and
yanked him upright, pulled him to the kennel door.

It took six seconds to get out of the wolf kennel, and they were the
longest six seconds of Gabriel's life. The two men ran down the path
to the cart.

"I told you not to touch her!" Thomas panted angrily when he'd
regained his breath enough to speak.

"I'm sorry. She was just so cute, and she did that head thing. I
thought she wanted me to pet her." It wasn't the truth. No matter how
cute she was, he'd never have dared it, not unless he'd had to.

Thomas glared at him, his breathing slowing down. He walked toward the
habitat fence and looked inside. A few of the wolves were pacing
nervously, and the one who'd attacked was trotting back and forth in
the kennel in an agitated manner. But the worst of the crisis seemed
to have passed.

"It will take days to get them back to normal," Thomas complained.

Yeah? Tell that to the ulcer I just sprouted. "I'm really sorry. Does
that kind of thing happen a lot?"

Thomas wiped his brow on his sleeve. "I've never seen a wolf do that
before, not even when we introduced new handlers. But then, we don't
go around petting the wolves, not unless we know them very well. That
one, he was just being territorial. Maybe he likes Margarite. Or maybe
he does not like you."

Thomas glared at Gabriel, plainly on the wolf's side.

"Huh. Well, thanks for your help. I'll, uh, I'll put in a good
word for you with Klingmann."

The mention of Klingmann's name only evoked new horrors. Thomas

paled, "Don't tell Herr Doktor what happened. Please."

"Son, I won't mention it if you won't," Gabriel said, giving

Thomas an avuncular pat on the shoulder.

Back on the U-Bahn, Gabriel carefully collected the gray hairs

from his pocket and studied them in the train's fluorescent light.
He brought out the red ones from the farm and laid them next to
the grays in his palm. The red hairs were coarser than
Margarite's, perhaps twice as large in diameter but shorter in
length. Both had white tips.

Gabriel put them away. He needed a better analysis than his own
untrained eye. For one thing, it was possible that the red hair
from the farm didn't even belong to the animal that killed Toni
Huber. It could be anything—dog hair, fox, even raccoon.

Were there such things as red German raccoons?

Anyway, if the hair he'd found at the farm was something other
than wolf hair, then all the trouble he'd gone to with Thomas
would count for diddly squat.

Gabriel thought about it, then realized that he knew someone who
just might be able to help.

The law offices of Ubergrau, HOffen and Schnell were housed at a

prestigious address on the Marien-platz and had been for the past
hundred years. The firm itself had represented the Ritter family
for even longer. The tradition between the two was so old, in
fact, that for the past decade of Great-Uncle Wolfgang's life the
firm tended what family business there was free of charge. That
business consisted mainly of trying to keep the German government
from confiscating Schloss Ritter for unpaid property taxes.

Fortunately, the money Gabriel had stolen from the hounfour on his
last case had enabled him to clear up all that and to put the firm
back on retainer. Their genuine pleasure at the family's
resurgence had been apparent in their letters, even if the heir
was an American who chose to keep his Anglicized name. They'd even
gone to the effort of obtaining Gabriel's birth certificate and
his grandfather's, Heinz Ritter's, immigration forms and
legalizing Gabriel's status as official descendant of the Ritter
line. (They insisted it wasn't because the firm itself had any
doubts about his story.)

Being officially registered as heir didn't seem relevant to

Gabriel, since the family had no official titles or duties, at
least not these days. But it mattered to Ubergrau, Hoffen and
Schnell, and it helped ease the deed transfer for the castle.

They had offered their every assistance after that. It was about
time to call that pony home.

There was a bit of confusion in the lobby, mostly because the

receptionist didn't think Gabriel looked like the firm's typical
clientele. But eventually Gabriel was ushered in, with great
apology, to the office of Herr Harold Ubergrau.

Harold Ubergrau was not what Gabriel expected. He'd pictured a

gray-haired, elderly gentleman, officious and obsessively proper.
Ubergrau was barely thirty, blond, and fair, with a kind of boyish
self-consciousness. He struck Gabriel as someone who'd just been
promoted from mail boy and was still getting used to wearing

"Mr. Knight! Very glad to meet you! So glad! Please, please! Come
in! Sit down!"

Gabriel took a seat. "Nice to meet you too, Herr Ubergrau. Are you
the one who's been writin' to me?"
Ubergrau blushed. "Yes, actually. I mean, my secretary types the
letter, but I, um, yes, I compose them. My uncle assigned me to
your account because I have the best English. I took my law degree
at Harvard."

"Really? Well, nice job. On the grammar and all."

Ubergrau looked at Gabriel as if trying to gauge if he was

kidding. "Er . . . thank you. Well! I'd be happy to be of service
to you, Mr. Knight. Of course, if you'd prefer to speak with my
uncle or Herr Schnell . . ."

"Heck, no!" Gabriel made a pshah sound. "I'm okay if you're okay."

Ubergrau's official smile faltered again. "Er . . . okay."

"Look, Harry," Gabriel said, leaning forward, "you don't mind if I

call you Harry, do you?"

Ubergrau reddened. "No. That is, if you . . ."

"I actually came by because I could use some help."

"Anything, Mr. Knight."



"I need an introduction to an animal biologist. I was thinkin'

maybe someone at the university."

Ubergrau looked perplexed. "I'm sorry?"

"You know, someone who'd be able to look at a couple of hair

samples for me, give me an analysis on species, that sort of

For a moment Ubergrau stared at him blankly; then his eyes

widened. ''Mem Gott! This is about those wolf killings, isn't it?
Are you working on a new book?"

Gabriel clenched his jaw in mild irritation. He hadn't anticipated

the lawyer doing his homework quite so thoroughly. "Not really,"
he hedged, determined to avoid a long explanation of the samples
and the case.

But Ubergrau paid no attention. "I read your last book, Mr.
Knight! The Voodoo Murders! I really enjoyed it! Especially
because it was based on true life. That makes it so much more
frightening, doesn't it? Do people tell you that a lot? It was
based on a real case in New Orleans, wasn't it? That is what the
back of the book said."

"Yeah, but I'm not really here on—"

"Have we been worried about these wolf killings!

Some of the secretaries are afraid to go down in the U-Bahn alone

at night. They haven't attacked anyone in the city, of course. The
wolves, that is, not the secretaries." Ubergrau tittered. "How
would they even get into the city with all the traffic? No, it's
all been out in the countryside, but even so—"

"Harry!" Gabriel waved his arms to get the man's attention.


"Can you just get me that name?"

"Oh! Oh. Yes. Let's see." He thought for a moment, tapping his
foot nervously. "I have a client at the university, but he is in

"Maybe he knows someone in biology."

"Let me try."

Obergrau opened his desk and brought out a Rolodex. These Germans
kept absolutely nothing on their desktops, Gabriel thought
irritably (neatness not being a trait he himself possessed).
Ubergrau found the number and picked up the phone. The
conversation was unintelligible, but Harry looked brightly
optimistic by the time he rung off.

"Ja! Gut! He says you can go right over. He will meet you in the
Lichthof. That is just off Ludwig-strafe. He will take you to the
lab himself."

"That's terrific. Thanks, Harry."

Ubergrau looked very pleased with himself. "If you have anything
else for the case, you will let me know, yes, Mr. Knight?"

Gabriel sighed. "You bet."

For a lone wolf, he sure had a knack for picking up overly

enthusiastic sidekicks.

Ubergrau's client not only took Gabriel to the biology lab, but
he'd arranged for a graduate student, Michael Hessel, to meet them
there and do any work Gabriel required. Hessel took Gabriel over
to a set of microscopes and laid out his samples one by one on
white blotting paper. He made neat little labels for each,
questioning Gabriel carefully about their origin.

Naturally, Gabriel lied. He hastily concocted an uninspired story

involving dead chickens, neighbor's dogs, and civil suits.

This seemed to give Hessel the direction he needed, for he began

to hum happily. He rolled his seat around, collecting materials to
make slide samples. When the two types of hair were enclosed in
glass to Hessel's satisfaction, he rolled over to the microscopes
and put them into side-by-side machines.

"Let's just see . . ." he muttered between refrains.

He studied the slides for some time, adjusting knobs here and
there. Then he looked at Gabriel with a mystified expression. He
stopped humming and went over and got a thick reference volume off
a bookshelf. He brought it back and began leafing through pages.

Gabriel anxiously twirled a long lock of his dirty blond hair.

"Mr. Knight," Hessel said, his eyes still attached to the

microscope, "neither one of these samples is dog hair."

"Oh?" Gabriel said innocently. His heart began to beat a little


"No. You said you found them both near a chicken coop?"


"On a farm?"


Michael looked up. His face was concerned. "Where exactly is this

Gabriel realized, blankly, that he knew none of the local names.

"Um . . . about half an hour south? What is it? Can you tell what
the red hair is?"

But Hessel didn't answer right away. He was chewing on his lip
worriedly. He turned back to the microscope and looked again, now
turning pages in the book, now looking in the viewer, and so on
back and forth. Gabriel noticed that the right-hand scope, the one
with the gray hair, went untouched this time around.

Surely if the red hair was raccoon or fox hair, Hessel would have
known it right away. Wouldn't he?

Hessel leaned back once more. "Mr. Knight, I think you should
notify the police."

"What?" Gabriel said, blushing.

"First, the gray hair. It's wolf hair—European wolf, canis lupus
lupus. According to the newspapers, that's the same species that
escaped from the zoo." Hessel said this in a grim, this-is-some-
trouble voice.

"Wow," said Gabriel, acting surprised.

"So it looks like the missing wolves have been past this farm of
yours. You say they took some chickens?"


Michael nodded, one eyebrow arched. "The police would want to know
about this. Also, you should warn—is it your farm?"

"No, a friend of mine's."

"Then you should warn your friend. These wolves are very

Gabriel didn't have to feign a look of concern. "Yeah, I know. I

mean, I've been following the story about the killin's. Wow. I'll
have to tell my friend."

"And call the police," Hessel added.

"Right. We'll get them out there right away. So ... um . . . what
about the red hair?" Why was his heart racing? Surely, Hessel's
concern was for the Marga-rite sample.

But now Hessel's frown deepened. He spun back around and looked in
the viewer again. He looked for several long minutes, then said:
"Mr. Knight, I have no idea what this hair is."

Gabriel felt a thrill of fear stab him right in the solar plexus.
"You don't? I mean, it's not dog hair or raccoon or ... or even
human"?" Gabriel walked over the microscope, though he'd be
clueless as to what he was looking at even if Hessel offered.
Hessel shook his head. He pulled his book over so Gabriel could
take a look.

"No. It's not dog hair—they don't have the same kind of undercoat
as a wolf—you see this flat white tip? It's closer to wolf, but it
has some odd characteristics. It's too short and it's thicker than
wolf hair-much thicker. Wolf hair tends to be fine. This is ...
this is almost, what is the word, rubber-like, coarse, like maybe
sea mammal hair or something."

"Sea mammal?"

"No, it's not sea mammal hair. I'm just trying to explain."

Gabriel had a brief vision of a seal bounding out of the woods to

chase Toni Huber and almost laughed out loud, though it really
wasn't funny at all. He was losing it.

"So it's not dog hair and it's not wolf hair. You're sureT

Hessel nodded. "Yes. It's closer to wolf than anything else as far
as I can tell. But it's not matching any species in the book, and
some of the characterizations . . . Well, if it's a wolf, it's a
very strange wolf."
Hessel suddenly remembered that there was further evidence to
examine. "Let me look at that paw print."

He grabbed a tape measure and rolled over to the cement cast. He

measured it, jotted the results on a piece of paper, rolled back
to the book, and flipped more pages.

"Ah! I thought it looked too large when you put it down. It is too

This time Hessel's expression when he looked up at Gabriel was on

the seen-a-ghost side. "This print was taken closer to which hair
sample, the red or the gray?"

"Urn ... the red."

Hessel did a hurried calculation on the paper. "The print is

definitely a wolf print. It looks normal to me, except for the
size. This print was made by a wolf around sixty-eight, seventy

Gabriel had to do a quick conversion in his head. That was

something like a hundred thirty-five pounds. "That's large for a
wolf?" he asked.

Hessel stared at him. "Mr. Knight, that is huge. Canis lupus

lupus, for example, the one that matches the gray hair sample?
Biggest they get is about forty kilograms."

"No shit."

"The biggest wolf species is the Alaskan timber wolf. Even for
that species, seventy kilograms would be huge—a huge male, maybe
one in a thousand. Huge."

"Yeah, I'm gettin' your drift on that one."

"We should call the police right now." Hessel put both hands on
his knees as if preparing to rise and waited for Gabriel's
permission. He looked awfully pale, just about the shade of his
white coat, and a jittering index finger, like a white worm,
further betrayed his perturbation.

"Look, I'd rather tell my friend and let him do it. It's his farm
after all," Gabriel backpedaled. "He's the one who found the
stuff. He just asked me to have it analyzed."

Hessel looked unconvinced. "I can understand that, Mr. Knight, but
this is very serious. If one or both of the zoo wolves is
traveling with something like this— some huge wolf hybrid-—it may
explain these attacks."

Gabriel shook his head as if to clear his ears. "A hybrid1? You
think the red hair belongs to a wolf hybrid?"
Hessel made a fifty-fifty gesture with his hand. "I can't say for
certain, naturally. But the print is too large for the gray-haired
wolf. It had to have been made by something else, and I would
guess it was whatever left that red hair. It may be a wolf-dog
hybrid, or a wolf and something else? They couldn't breed with
anything outside the canine family, but perhaps a coyote or ...
No, these are not existing in Germany. A fox would explain the
color but not the size." He shrugged. "It is probably a wolf-dog
hybrid. But it is large and may be vicious. It may be the true

Okay. You walked right into this one. Now get yourself out.

"Wow! All right, I'll tell you what. If you just write up
somethin' for me explainin' your analysis, and sign it, then I'll
take it over to my friend right now and we'll call the police. I'm
sure they'll want to interview you, so write down your phone
number and address."

Hessell looked undecided.

"I really think my friend should be the one to report it," Gabriel
pressed. "If you don't hear from the police in a few days, you can
give them a call. All right?"

And wait for them to son you out from all the cranks they're no
doubt getting.

Hessel agreed. He organized a new stack of forms and a few pencils

under a table lamp and set out to document his findings in neat,
legible handwriting. And Gabriel waited through it all, staring
out the window at the rain that had begun to fall and thinking, Oh
shit, oh shit, oh shit.

It was the only lead he had, and it was pretty damn sorry. His
instinct told him Klingmann was lying, or at least not telling the
whole truth. What a scoop— break out the search warrant, Dano.

So he went back to the zoo and scouted out the closest exit to the
administration building. He found it—a gated exit requiring card
access that was only a few yards away. On the other side of the
wrought iron fence was a parking lot. Gabriel studied the
configuration of cars, then went outside the zoo and walked its
tree-lined perimeter. He found the lot. It was employee parking.

And there he sat, discreetly shielded behind a bush. Darkness was

falling by the time he settled in, and he was glad to have his
coat. The sun had warmed the day, despite the brief March shower,
but the air forgot Sol's kiss the instant it said good night, like
some heartless and petulant teenage girl, and took on a frigid
bite before the last of the sunset had faded on the horizon.

He waited several hours in that cold air, and his discomfort made
him crotchety. Probably the man had left before Gabriel even got
here. And even if he did come out, how could Gabriel follow him if
he got in a car?

But Klingmann did come out, at 7:32 P.M., and he didn't get into a
car. He walked down the footpath to the road and took a left. He
walked right past Gabriel and his bush, and he didn't even glance
in their direction.

Klingmann descended down into the U-Bahn at the Thalkirchen

station, and Gabriel followed him, trying to keep behind a group
of punkish adolescents. The zoo official went directly to the
platform for the train heading north. Gabriel stepped into the car
just behind the one Klingmann chose when the train arrived.

The man certainly was making this easy. Gabriel could have been
wearing purple sequins and a feather boa, and the scientist
would've been none the wiser. From the brief glances Gabriel got
of his face, he looked extremely preoccupied.

They both got off at the Marienplatz exit.

The tail was even easier in the crowded downtown station. Indeed,
the challenge was keeping Klingmann in sight at all with the
milling masses moving up and down the steep escalators. Klingmann
headed for the Dienerstrasse exit and up into the night air.
Diener-strasse ran in a straight shot between the Marienplatz—
ground zero of Munich—and the Residenz, the palace where the kings
and queens of Bavaria once lived. Gabriel followed him past the
closed shops and the brightly lit kellars on either side of the
cobblestone street. Just before Max Joseph Platz, his target
entered an old stone building with a plain facade. He did not come
back out.

After a bit, Gabriel wandered over to the building and read the
small brass plaque next to the door. It said DIE KONIGLICH-
BAYRISCHE HOFJAGDLOGE. There were no windows.

Gabriel entered a small coffee shop a few doors down. He took a

seat near the window and decided to order—he hadn't eaten all day.
The bratwurst came, along with a coffee that was consumed
lovingly, with rhapsodic delight.

He kept an eye on the door.

His dictionary got him as far as Die Koniglich Bay-erische—it

meant "the Royal Bavarian," which he more or less already knew. It
was the kind of descriptive precursor one could see on lots of
titles in Munich. "Royal Bavarian Opera House" and "Royal Bavarian
Museum," for example, not to mention the infamous "Royal Bavarian
House of Schnitzel." But Hofjagdloge was one of those run-on
conglomerates Germans were wont to invent that made the dictionary
next to useless.
"It means Royal Bavarian Hunting Lodge," his waitress informed him
after he showed her the words written on his notepad. He hadn't
bothered trying to pronounce it.

"Really! A huntin' lodge? Are you sure?"

The girl, a pretty thing that was just a little too gawky and
potato-fed and was (in any event) way too young, smiled at him
giddily, a hormonal glint in her eye.

"Yes. Hunting lodge. It's across the street, yes?"

"That's right." Gabriel gave her an encouraging smile. "You

wouldn't know anythin' about it, would you?"

The girl looked as though she wished to God that she did. "No. But
sometimes you see someone go in or come out. Not many people. They
never come over here. It's one of those . . . you know, places
with much money."

"Like a private club?"

The girl nodded, bobbing her head energetically. "Yes. In Germany

there used to be many such clubs— we call them logen."

"Logenl Like lodges?"

"I think so. Not all for hunting. The logen are for men, mostly."


The girl's hands trembled a little as she poured him more coffee,
her eyes taking the opportunity to steal another glance at his
chiseled face.

But he'd forgotten her already. He had eyes for only one thing,
and that was the door across the street. What would a zoo
official, not to mention an animal behaviorist like Klingmann, be
doing at a hunting lodge?

He sighed. There was only one way to find out.

The club's concierge stared at Gabriel with unmasked horror. "I

beg your pardon?"

"Yeah, I saw your sign! Out front!" the American twanged. "Me 'n'
the boys back home were always out huntin' up some bucks. Boy,
I've missed it! I was hopin' you could maybe squeeze me in on your
next trip. I'd love to take a crack at some of the local
wildlife." Gabriel pointed his index finger and checked the sight
down his arm. Bing, his arm recoiled.

"Sir," came the shuddering response, "this is a private

Gabriel began patting his coat pockets. "What, 're you talkin'
about membership? Hell, I don't mind. What is it, a couple thou a
year? D-marks, that is to say? You name it, I can write you a
check right now."

The concierge's panic deepened. "No, we—"

"Ah-ah! Munich bank!" Gabriel grinned, wagging his finger.

The concierge's jowls quivered. "I don't care if it's underwritten

by God Himself, membership here is by invitation only!"

"So invite me. I don't bite."

"That's not how it works! Now, if you please . . ."

The concierge pointed fiercely toward the front door, but Gabriel
was more interested in the other side of the room, where dark wood
paneling surrounded an archway that led to an equally dark-paneled
hall. There was a glimpse of a larger room beyond, and he heard
the low rumble of male voices. He stalled for time.

"How does it work, then?"

The concierge hrumphed. "This club is for men from the very best
German families." He gave Gabriel a look that was meant to be

"Is that all? Heck, I'm from a great German family."

"I seriously doubt it."

"I am! The Ritters, ever heard of 'em? We have this castle down
south? Nice place—Schloss Ritter in Rittersberg?" Gabriel leaned
forward conspiratorially. "Bet not many of your members have a
whole town named after 'em or a family castle. Am I right?"

Now the man's eyes narrowed, and he stared at Gabriel blankly as

his ears pinkened. He had a constipated look as though he was
certain Gabriel was putting him on and yet . . . what if he


Gabriel had been so intrigued by the mental battle raging on the

concierge's face that he hadn't noticed that they were no longer
alone. The voice was deep and exotically accented. Gabriel found
its owner in the shadow of the archway.

He was a tall man, at least six-two. He was extravagantly handsome

with dark hair that curled on the shoulders of his immaculate gray
suit and a strong, rugged yet boyish face. As he stepped forward,
the breadth of his shoulders and the long, angular lines they
narrowed to struck a chord of envy in the shorter American. The
man's face was curious and not unfriendly.
Xavier fell over himself trying to apologize; that intent was
clear even if the words were indecipherable. But the man stepped
past the concierge, his eyes never leaving Gabriel's. "Did I hear
you mention the Ritters?"


"Of Rittersberg, Bavaria?"

Gabriel was surprised. Not many people had heard of the tiny
village—it was barely on the map. "Yeah! Well, it used to be
Bavaria. It's Germany now."

The man smiled slightly as though he found this distinction naive.

"You don't sound German, Herr Ritter."

"I'm not. My grandfather immigrated to the States. As a matter of

fact, he even changed his name. I go by Knight. Gabriel Knight."

Gabriel reached out a hand, hoping the man was as friendly as he

looked. The man took it.

"Gabriel. Like the angel," the man said, looking with bemused
curiosity into Gabriel's eyes. "My own name is Baron Friedrich von
Glower. Friedrich will do."

"Thanks," Gabriel said, feeling a rush of victory. He was

definitely in.

"Rittersberg is a beautiful spot." Von Glower put a hand on

Gabriel's back and began to escort him toward the archway.

"Oh, it's great, what with the Alps right there."

"Yes, magnificent. You do ... hunt, don't you, Mr. Knight?"

Von Glower paused, as though he wanted no distractions from the

answer. He waited politely, his dark brown eyes gazing earnestly
into Gabriel's.

Gabriel's neck burned. The concierge had been a lark, a shot in

the dark, but there was something about this man's open stare that
made the subterfuge much more serious. Fortunately, he found he
didn't have to lie.

"Sure, I hunt. You might say it's a family tradition." He returned

von Glower's gaze calmly and without blinking.

"Very well," said von Glower, breaking into a slow smile. "Let me
introduce you to the others."

Down the hall was a large, high-ceilinged great room. The

carpeting was expensive and old, and the walls were decked out
with enough antlers and glazed eyes to have made some taxidermist
a very rich man.
Gabriel's nervousness resurfaced when he saw Klingmann. The doctor
was engaged in what looked like an intense and very private
conversation with a blond, arrogant-looking young man. The
blonde's cashmere jacket and Italian loafers bespoke a silver
spoon crammed well and truly down his throat. The only other
occupants of the room were three older men who were drinking at a
long, polished wooden bar.

"Gentlemen!" von Glower said as they entered. All eyes turned

their way. "I'd like to introduce Herr Knight, a hunting
enthusiast from America. I've invited him to join us for a while.
How long are you in Munich, Herr Knight?"

"Just a couple of weeks."

Von Glower turned back to the others. "Then, for a few weeks Herr
Knight will be my guest, so let me introduce you. By the fireplace
is Baron von Zell."

Von Zell, the blonde that had been speaking to Klingmann, was
scowling irritably at von Glower as if wondering why the hell he
would bring in such a ragamuffin. He gave Gabriel a begrudging

"And Doktor Klingmann . . ."

Klingmann had an expression of befuddlement that was about to

become suspicion. Gabriel rushed into the void.

"Wow, this is amazin'!" he gushed. "I'm doin' some research for a

novel while I'm in town, and I met Dr. Klingmann at the zoo. I
guess we have more in common than we thought, hey, Doktor?"

The words fell like lead on the room, and Gabriel could feel his
fair skin reddening, an obvious betrayal of the smile plastered on
his face.

"Yes, quite a coincidence," Klingmann said, frowning. He appeared

to be about to say more, but he cast a surreptitious glance at von
Zell and closed his mouth.

Gabriel had hoped the missing wolves screw-up at the zoo wasn't
something Klingmann would want to bring up in front of this crowd.
It looked like he was right.

"A novelist too? How interesting," von Glower said, breaking the
awkward pause. "Over by the bar, the large one is Herr von Aigner

Von Glower was being polite; Von Aigner was both tall and
enormously fat. He raised a glass cheerfully in Gabriel's

"... Herr Hennemann ..."

A smaller gray-haired man waved his hand. "Guten Abend, Herr


"English, please, Hennemann!" von Glower cajoled. He turned to

Gabriel, "Or am I underestimating you?"

" 'Fraid not," Gabriel said sheepishly.

"What about me?" said the third and final man at the bar. He'd
been staring at Gabriel since he and von Glower walked in. There
was a predatory look in his eye that Gabriel didn't quite know
what to make of. The man sauntered over.

"This is our own Herr Preiss," von Glower said.

Preiss crossed the room and stopped uncomfortably close to Gabriel

He was an odd mix of brutishness and style, like a boxer in a
tuxedo. He had a patterned velvet evening coat on, and there was
nothing at all on his head except for a healthy glow. His face was
fleshy with broad, enlarged features that looked almost swollen.
Preiss reached for and took Gabriel's hand, pressing it warmly
between his own.

"A pleasure, Herr Knight," Preiss rumbled in a low, liquid rush.

For an insane moment Gabriel was sure Preiss was going to kiss his
hand. He snuck a glance at von Glower, more to escape Preiss's
gaze than anything else. Von Glower looked amused. He dropped a
graceful hand on Preiss's shoulders.

"Thank you for being so friendly, Preiss," von Glower said in a

low, laughing voice.

Preiss reluctantly let go and strolled back to the bar.

"I'm, uh, real happy to meet all of you," Gabriel managed.

"Then have a drink!" von Aigner bellowed. Henne-mann nodded

lollingly. Gabriel realized they were both drunk off their asses.

"Good idea!" Von Glower placed his hand once again at Gabriel's
back, urging him toward the bar. "We have beer on tap, or wine if
you prefer."

"Anythin's fine, Baron."


"Friedrich. Anythin's fine."

Yes, anything, anything, anything at all. Gabriel had the feeling

it was going to be a very long night.
What the hell had he gotten himself into this time?

Chapter 2
St. George's Books New Orleans
"Mom, I'm not a salesclerk." As usual when talking to her mother,
the New York edge on Grace Naki-mura's voice was exaggerated into
a nasal whine.

A man walked up to the counter with a Dorothy Parker paperback.

Grace punched in the numbers on the register.

"That'll be $6.20," she whispered, covering up the phone. He

fished in his pockets.

"Mom, I have looked into it—registration closes at the end of next

month. Okay, the fifteenth, how did you ... ?"

She gave the man his change and managed a smile before he walked
away. With her mother squawking in her ear, smiling posed the same
technical challenge as rubbing your stomach and patting your head
at the same time.

"Mom, I'm not ruining my life, and I don't care if Mark

Kobayashi's gotten engaged—you liked him, not me."

A middle-aged woman came to the counter. That she was a middle-

aged woman was evident from her hands and her swinging purse; her
face was hidden behind a stack of The Voodoo Murders hardbacks.

"I gotta go, I'll call you later," Grace insisted. "I gotta go.

"Sorry," she said to the woman as she hung up. The stack of books
had been delicately balanced on the counter, and now the woman's
enthusiastic round face was visible.

"I'm a huge Blake Backlash fan," the woman admitted with a giggle.

"I never would have guessed."

"Oh, these are for my friends. I've already read it three times!"

"Won't your friends be thrilled!" Grace managed to keep the

sarcasm from her tone.

"I hope so. Mr. Knight has quite a way with words, and I just love
the character—Blake? He's so masculine, so take-charge!" The
woman's face glowed.

"That's the miracle of fiction."

"I'm sorry?"

"I mean, they don't make men like that anymore." Grace tried not
to sound relieved.

"Don't I know it!" the woman agreed with a demeanor of sisterly

bonding. "That scene in chapter twenty with his sidekick, Fujitsu?
The way he swept her off her feet and carried her to his bedroom?
I thought I would just die! Just lay down and die!"

"I had exactly the same reaction," said Grace, reddening. "That'll
be $123.21."

"But then, Mr. Knight himself is pretty cute, isn't he? At least
his picture." The woman ripped off her check and handed it to
Grace. "I read in the Picayune review that he, um, owns this

The hope in the woman's voice was painful.

"He does, but he hasn't been here in months. I'm sorry." Grace dug
up a sympathetic smile.

"That's all right. I didn't really expect to ... you know." The
woman got very flustered. She took her purchases and left.

Something about the encounter made Grace upset, or perhaps it was

a residue from the phone call with her mother. She looked at the
clock, but it was still hours from lunchtime. She decided to go
back into the studio and check the answering machine. It used to
be the first thing she did every morning, but there were never any
messages on it and she'd gradually stopped expecting there to be.
But checking it was still a distraction she allowed herself
several times a day, and at the moment she needed one.

It turned out to be more of a distraction than she'd bargained

for. The little box blinked its indication of a message, an event
so rare as to deserve an entry on the astronomical calendar. Grace
hit the button, glad for once that the shop was empty. Gabriel's
voice came on.

"Hey, Gracie. Um, somethin's come up. It might be a new case, but
I'm not sure yet. I'm on location so, um, don't bother tryin' to
reach me at the castle. I'll call you if this thing looks like
it's goin' anywhere. Okay? Until we know for sure, Gerde can
handle any research I need. We'll talk about the shop just as soon
as I get back to Rittersberg. I promise. Give my love to Gran."


Grace replayed the message. Then she replayed it again.

For a long, suspended moment there was nothing but incredulity.

When that faded, what remained was not what she would have
expected of herself—anger and indignation at being left out of a
potential case, at being replaced as research assistant by Gerde,
the alleged housekeeper of Schloss Ritter. Those emotions would
come, but they would be aftershocks, not her immediate, gut
reaction. Her gut reaction was a wave of certainty and direction
as unquestionable as her own name.

It was time to go to Germany.

Schloss Ritter Rittersberg, Bavaria

By the time Grace landed in Munich, she'd had time to digest the
voice message fully—the message and, along with it, every remotely
feasible implication and subtext a human mind could possibly come
up with in response to the words left on the recorder. The words,
and her own fairly ripe experience of Mr. Knight, hair gel and

The pretty twenty-seven-year-old had inherited this unique

capacity, this paranoia-tilted well of imagination, from her
Japanese mother. It went with her current, long-suffering
situation with Knight the way that nitroglycerine went with

So that by the time the door of Schloss Ritter opened in response

to her knock, and the tall, blond, and attractive (if somewhat
severe) figure of Gerde came into view, the sight was received as
the final confirmation of what was already a foregone conclusion—
that Gerde was stoking more than the castle's furnace. There was
no way a womanizer like Gabriel could spend a winter alone with
such a woman and not try something, and to Gerde, surely the
handsome young family heir was a dream come true?

"Is Gabriel here?" Grace asked tersely, not even trusting his
message on that regard.

"No, he's away on business. You must be Grace." Gerde held out her
hand, a surprised but welcoming smile on her face.

Grace accepted neither the hand nor the smile, picking up her
luggage to avoid the former. "May I come in? I can get a room in
the village if that's not acceptable."

Gerde cocked her head to one side and studied Grace with

"Of course you can stay here," she said slowly. She reached over
and took one of Grace's bags, leading the way inside.

"It's one of the few comfortable bedrooms," Gerde explained as she

switched on the light in Gabriel's room. "We're still making
repairs. There's a fireplace in here, and it gets very cold at

Grace looked around the room. She'd had a hard time imagining
Schloss Ritter. To suddenly be here was very surreal.

"Don't worry," Gerde said with a smile when Grace's eyes fixed on
the bed. "I just changed the sheets."

Grace tried not to scream. She took her suitcase over to the bed
and opened it.

"You must be tired. Did you—did you have a bad flight?" Gerde
asked, pausing at the door.

"No," Grace said stiffly. "Where is Gabriel, by the way?"

"He's on a case."
Grace felt her face burn. A case. The louse. She stole a glance at
Gerde and thought the blonde looked pleased with herself. Probably
she was feeling triumphant about having booted Grace so easily out
of the way.

She closed her suitcase and sat on the bed. "Where?"

Gerde hesitated. "North of here."

"Really? Do you have an address and phone number?"

Gerde looked extremely uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, but I don't

think it's my place to talk about Gabriel's case with you. When he
calls, he can tell you himself."

Grace nodded, her temper rising. "His message mentioned research

for the case."

"He gave you instructions, then?" Gerde sounded relieved.

Grace could just kill her. "Actually, he mentioned that you would
be doing some research."

"Oh. Yes, I suppose he did ask me to check the library."

"For what?"

Gerde sighed and gripped the handle of the door. "Grace, this is
between Gabriel and the people who needed his help. I'm very

Grace sucked in her cheeks and glared at the blonde.

"Would you maybe like some dinner before you go to sleep? Or some
coffee?" Gerde offered.
Grace declined. She went to bed with a repast of hot, frustrated
tears instead.

The morning brought relief. Grace awoke to the sun shining in the
window. When she sat up in bed, the full panorama of the snow-
peaked Alps came into view. The window had been left slightly ajar
in the night, and the air was brisk and as rich as newly milked
cream. She was in Germany at last, and it was a beautiful day! How
bad could things be?

She dressed and went downstairs, a renewed sense of purpose

cheering her. She gave a curt good morning to Gerde, who was
seated in the front hall surrounded by what looked like remodeling
plans, and grabbed her coat. Without further conversation, she
slipped out to explore Rittersberg.

The town dated from the 1200s. An old stone wall surrounded the
heart of it, forming curious and beguiling archways and secret
passages. On the main square the Rathaus and its glockenspiel were
bursting with the kind of charm Disney spent a fortune
replicating. And across from the square was a perfect little
church with a stone pathway and a bell tower. She walked the
village byways several times, past houses with Bavarian murals
painted on the white stucco walls, a tiny grocery shop, and an
equally small school. She greeted everyone she saw, delighting in
practicing the German greetings she'd been studying. Then, when
her hunger became insistent, she headed for the gasthof on the
main square.

The interior of the Goldener Lowe was all lacquered pine and
ceiling beams. One old gentleman was the only person in
attendance, and he brought fruhstiick—breakfast—consisting of
coffee, a hard-boiled egg, and a plate of rolls and meats. It was
not exactly what Grace was used to eating this early, but it
tasted great after the fresh air.

"Are you on your way to Austria?" Werner asked as he refilled her


"No. I'm staying at the castle."

Werner raised a fuzzy gray eyebrow. "You are?"

"Yes," Grace said around her toast. "I'm a friend of Gabriel

Knight's. Do you know him?"

Werner nodded grimly. "I know him. My niece, Gerde, she works at
the castle. You have met Gerde?"

"Oh, yes," Grace said neutrally. It occurred to her that Werner

might know something. She looked around, but there was no one else
in the pub. She spoke confidentially. "I'm Grace Nakimura,
Gabriel's research assistant. I came to help out on his new case."
The spark of interest in Werner's eyes grew. "Ah, so! Good for

"I didn't catch your name."

"Werner Huber."

"What do you think about this case, Herr Huber?" Grace asked,
giving him a concerned smile.

Werner put the coffeepot on the table and sat down on the bench
across from her. He leaned his large, weathered arms on the planks
and spoke in a low voice.

"It was I who brought him the case. For our cousin. Poor Sepp!"

Grace's pulse quickened. "Really?"


"And . . . do, um, do you think the case will be a difficult one?"

Werner glowered ominously. "Oh, yes! Very bad, I think. There have
already been many deaths."

Grace's stomach did a slow roll. She had a very visceral, very
vivid recollection of the moments of sheer terror she'd had over
the Voodoo murders in New Orleans. The idea that Gabriel actually
was on a new case, a real case, struck home for the first time.

"What's he up against?" she asked, edging forward in her chair.

Werner shrugged enigmatically. "It may be one. It may be more than

one. It's very smart, I can tell you that." He tapped his temple.

Grace shook her head, confused. "More than one . . . what?"

Werner sat back, a look of vague suspicion dawning.

"Um, Gabriel called me and told me to get here, pronto," Grace

explained quickly. "I just flew in last night, and I haven't had a
chance to speak to him yet."

Werner considered this and seemed to find it reasonable—or maybe

the old man just couldn't resist the temptation to talk about it.
In any case, he hunched forward, his light gray eyes filled with
conspiratorial grimness.

"Werewolf," he whispered.

Grace's jaw ended up somewhere around her breastbone. She didn't

have the first idea what to make of it—whether to laugh or scream.
She didn't know what she'd expected, but this was not it. Her
expression was fuel to Werner's fire. He filled Grace in on the
story of Toni Huber, embellishing it considerably.
"Oh, my God," Grace said when he was done. "Oh, my God."

"Yes, you see? Very dangerous. We had a werewolf right here in

Rittersberg many years ago. People still talk about it. It was a
devil—pure evil."

Werner's long face was pulled into a grimace, and he nodded

knowingly as if he were keeper of some dark secret.

"You had a werewolf! Here? When was that?"

"Long ago. I heard stories about it when I was a child."

Grace sat silent for a moment, her mind racing. "If he ... if
Gabriel took the case for your cousin, you probably know where he

Werner nodded solemnly. Grace felt a sense of relief flush her.

"Well . . . where?"

Werner looked at her oddly, as if considering, then shook his

great, gray-bearded head. "Ate. If he wants you to know, he must
tell you himself. When it comes to matters of good and evil, one
must be careful, you see? I have maybe said too much as it is."

Werner got up and went back to his duties. It was the first time
Grace noticed the family resemblance between the old man and his
niece. She took another bite of toast and chewed determinedly.

Grace looked from room to room back at the castle—those not

boarded over or nailed shut—and finally located the Schattenjager
library near Gabriel's bedroom. Gerde was in it, scanning the
shelves. She flushed a bit when Grace entered.

"You reminded me that I had some things to do for Gabriel," Gerde

said, trying to sound pleasant.

Grace tossed down her purse and headed to the shelves. Just one
glance at the old volumes got her excitement flowing, even if
Gerde's presence dampened the moment.

"Stuff on werewolves, I know," Grace said with a hint of

satisfaction. "What did you find?" She spied a small stack of
books accumulating on the table. She went over and picked up the
top one. It looked ancient. The cover said Werewolfs: An
Inquisitor's Gyde.

"Grace . . ." Gerde began firmly, "I know you will get angry
again, but I'm afraid the Schattenjager library is off limits to
anyone but—"

Grace lost it. Her candle of restraint had burned to the quick
with all of this nonsense. She slammed the book down on the desk
and turned, fury in her eyes. "No way. You can't be serious."
Gerde recoiled a little but held firm. "I know it must be
difficult for you to understand traditions like—"

"No, you don't understand," Grace interrupted, her voice rising.

"I've got a master's degree, and I've been tending a stupid
bookshop for Gabriel for over a year, waiting for a case to come
up. So I don't care what your personal issues are, Ms. Hull! I
don't care if you're sleeping with him, I don't care if you want
to play Queen of the Castle, I don't care if you think women
shouldn't mess with the manly business of being a Schattenjager, I
just don't care! I'm working on this case, because I'm due. And
I'm not going to sit around and watch someone else take what I've
earned just because he ... just because . . ."

She stopped. Something inside her could not bear to voice the
words, as if reluctant to subject her own ears to them. And then
there was the look on Gerde's face. The blonde, the much larger of
the two, stood there as though she'd been slapped. Tears defied
gravity on the edge of her lashes.

"Fine. Do whatever you wish," she said in a quiet voice. She

turned and marched from the room, shutting the library door softly
behind her.

Grace took a long, quavering breath. "Shit." She had the bitter
aftertaste of a nasty blow-up, an inward wincing at her own
actions. She'd meant what she'd said, at least the part about the
work, but the delivery had been brutally raw.

Well, it was done now, and she couldn't take it back. And if she'd
made her point and could now work in peace, perhaps it was for the
Werewolfs: An Inquisitor's Gyde

There are two kindes of werewolfs the Inquisitor may confronte in his
doutes: the firste is the "false" werewolf, and the seconde is the "true"
werewolf. The false werewolf is a man or womman who cannot chaunge his or
her forme, but whose bedeveled minde beleves otherwise. The false
werewolf may run nayked in the night, and may een kille and ayt hu-
mankinde, alle the while convynced that he or she is a wolf. In these
cases, the Inquisitor wil finde no evy-dence of an animal in fact or in
witnesses, and the bodyes may also be shewn to baar the markes of human
attack only, howere wilde.

The cause of the false werewolf is possessyn by an evyl spirit. Contact

with the devel may also had ben made, for the devel can cause swich
delusyns and can so use a sinner for his owne mordrous purpose. In swich
cases, the Inquisitor is fortunayt, for the toun-folke may alredy know
who is the werewolf. Swich behavyr is impossyble to hyde.

It is muche haarder with true werewolfs. A true werewolf shyfts forme

from human to wolf and back agayn. Swich creatyres can hunte their
victyms with human kunning and animal ferocyte. They can be haarde to
finde, for unlike the false werewolfs ther minde is sane and ther behavyr
is otherwyse normal. In severyl cases, swich a creatyre has killed for
many yeers without captyre. Indeed, swich crimes as these creatyres
commit might een be blamed on a reel wolf and nere be solved, more so if
the werewolf moves from toun to toun.

These thyngs nan ben set doun by Inquisitors who han faced swich

The true werewolf may shyft forme at wil, but the Chaunge may be forced
upon them by certeyn sounds swich as the howling of a wolf or the
presence of a ful moon.

A true werewolf ne dooth grow old. Aske the tounfolk about kinsmen and
neigheboures who staye yonge.

A true werewolf heels swiftly when wounded. One werewolf in Lyons loost a
paw in a trape lyd for him. The paw chaunged to a foote, but when the
Inquisitor wente to the werewolf's hoose, though there was freshe blood
on the floor and a pyle of bloody linens under the hoose, the man himself
was ne wounded. Where the paw han ben rypped away was a foote, pure and
whyte and softe like newe skin, and ne matchyng the age and waar of the
older foote.

A true werewolf can be killed only be destroying his or her brayn or

herte. Also, death by elementales: Fire, Earth, Water, Ayr, is sayd to be
effectyf. Alle executyns sholde ende with removing the brayn and herte
from the body or burning the body as precautyns agaynst the werewolf s

A true werewolf is one of the moste mysteryes and cursed creatyres of

darkness. The curse is a curse of the blood, and in swich creatyres the
blood is tainted. The true werewolf is fashyned in these maneres:

If a man or womman be borne to a true werewolf, they han the tainted


If a man or womman be byten by a true werewolf and lyve, they han the
tainted blood.

If a man or womman be cursed by one with the power to lay swich evyl,
their blood becomes tainted.

If a witche or a sorcerer makes swich concoctyns as can force the

Chaunge, or gaynes a magikal wolfskin, salve, or belte from the devel,
they can effeck the Chaunge without the tainted blood at firste. But with
muche use the Chaunge wil infecte the blood til the witche or sorcerer
becomes controlled by the Curse and the Curse becomes irreversyble.

Werewolf packes

A true werewolf han it in his wolf nature to desyre a packe. In this

manere mighte a clever Inquisitor spote his werewolf. Looke for those who
lyv in unnatural groupes. When swich a packe is formed, the firste
werewolf, he or she with the blood tainted through byrth, curse, or
sorcery, is the Alpha werewolf. The others who are converted by the Alpha
werewolf's byte are called Beta werewolfs after the Greek fashyn. There
is usually only one Alpha werewolf, but there may be many Beta werewolfs
in a packe. A Beta werewolf is easyr to detect than an Alpha, for many
Betas go madd from the blood. Looke for increysed aggres-syn, unprovoked
rage, sleeplessness, and chaunges in physikal appeyrance.

A victym who is byten by a true werewolf for this purpoose—for the

purpoose of making a Beta werewolf—is doomed to the werewolf curse unless
they, by some actyn of their own hande or minde, cause the destructyn of
the Alpha werewolf. They are by swich a meyns cured and the tainte
lifted. In contraryness, if a Beta is haarmed the Alpha shal suffer pangs
by the power of blood sympathee, but if the Alpha commit the haarm the
suffering shal be one for one. For swich raysons an Alpha wil ne haarm a
Beta of its owne making with its owne hande.

Alle creatyres who dye with the tainted blood are doomed to Helle with
the rest of the devel's minyns. But for swich a victym that becomes a
true werewolf through no act of his or her owne, their soule may remayn
in Purgatory if they han committed no grie-vyse sin—that is, if they han
ne taken human lyf or ayten of human flessh or blood. Even for swich a
one as this, they can in no way enter Heven with the curse on their

Grace was putting the book down when something slipped inside the
cover and a trace of cream peeked out. She carefully opened the
back of the book and saw an envelope with a red seal.

The envelope looked old, but not as old as the book itself. It was
addressed to Konig Ludwig II vom Bavaria and was dated March 4,

She had to break the seal to open it. The letter was written in
German, but between her own studies and her dictionary she was
able to get a rough translation together quickly, for it was a
short and pointed missive.
To the benevolent and beloved King of Bavaria: I have had the honor of
meeting your highness only twice, but you may depend upon me as your most
loyal subject and one who holds your life more dearly than his own. It is
my profession to seek out certain kinds of criminal behavior, and I am
currently on an investigation which I fear comes too close to Your
Highness. I am investigating the one who calls himself "the Black Wolf,"
and I have learned that he is extremely dangerous for reasons which I
cannot fully express to you by such means as this letter. Please, 1 beg
you, do not see this man alone and guard your person at all times with
the highest diligence. I hope to finish my proofs soon, and then I will
be happy to explain everything to you. In the meantime, take this as a
most serious warning from one who loves you.

Your servant, Baron Christian von Ritter of Ritters-berg, Bavaria

"The Black Wolf?" Grace mused, her curiosity pushing all thoughts
of Gerde or, indeed, of anything else from her head. "It must have
been a werewolf case, or why would the letter be in this book?"

She'd seen a chapel on the first floor, and now she returned to
it, drawn by a large Bible she'd glimpsed on the altar. The Bible,
old and heavy, did indeed contain a family history scribbled among
the branches of an illuminated tree. Christian von Ritter was born
in 1820, ordained as Schattenjager in 1838 and died . . . March 4,
1864—-the exact date on the letter! According to the log, he broke
his neck in a fall from his horse. He was succeeded by his son,
Stephan, who was not ordained for two years, being only been
sixteen at the time of his father's death.

So it was likely that Christian's investigation had died with him.

Had Christian been riding off to deliver the letter when he had
his fatal fall? To track the Black Wolf? In any case, the letter
to the king had obviously never been sent, for its seal was intact
and, well, it was still here.

Grace returned to the library and located the journals of the

Schattenjagers in a glass-enclosed bookcase. Some of the older
journals were fragile, falling apart. She had a deep urge to begin
cataloguing this treasure trove, to get a computer in here and
begin typing before all of this history was lost to
disintegration. But that would have to wait.

Christian von Ritter's journal was easily found by the dates

written on the spine: 1838-1864. Curiously, as with the journal of
Gunter Ritter that Werner had sent to New Orleans, the handwritten
entries were in English. Could the family have originated in the
Green Isles? Their patron saint, St. George, was England's own.
Such a history was undoubtedly in these journals somewhere, but
she'd have to take one mystery at a time.
3 January, 1883. I am now in Prussia. The beast that brought me here has
so far bested me. He is secretive and skillful. He has much self-control,
unlike what I'd been led to expect. He seems to know almost before I do
where and when I will be stalking him. He turns up his nose at my lures.
Three more disappearances have occurred, and I'm no closer to learning
his identity or finding his lair. I can't even prove he took them. Not a
single corpse has been found.

And the last entry.

3 March, 1864. I have had a break at last. The key was in front of me all
the time. The Black Wolf, he so daringly calls himself, for all to hear
and none to truly see. It is worse than I could ever have suspected. He
is not just a beast, but a monster! His jaws are already around some of
the best throats in Europe. I
am so very fearful. I return to Rittersberg tonight. I must warn those in
danger and get someone to assist me. I dare not attempt to take him

Grace checked the journal of Stefan von Ritter, Christian's son,

but there was only a brief mention that he had not been able to
follow his father's trail, and that he thought that the suspect in
question had long since left the area.

So what had happened to King Ludwig II? Although a history major,

Grace's specialty had never been European monarchy. Still, she
knew vaguely who the man was. He was a Wittelsbach and, as the
date on the letter reminded her, he was probably one of the last
Wittelsbach monarchs. The Prussian kaisers took over when the
common German country was formed.

Did the Black Wolf have anything to do with the downfall of the
Wittelsbachs? Did this story have any bearing on Gabriel's case at
all? Grace sighed. Probably not.

She began to go through the other journals carefully, pulling each

out gingerly and leafing through them. It was time-consuming and
tedious, and she had to keep stopping herself from getting
interested in entries that obviously were not about werewolves.

She was about to take a break when she found something. It was in
a journal dated 1720-1753.
20 April, 1750

Numerous deaths at the hands of a marauding wolf being recorded in a

neighboring county, I set out to see if I could determine the cause.
There had been rumors of a werewolf, and the dark signs did indeed seem
to be present.

The deaths had all occurred within a forty-kilometer range of woods, and
at the heart was the village of Alfing. My assistant and I set a trap a
short distance from the village. Though the beast had shewn a propensity
for human flesh, livestock has also been taken.

And it was a newling lamb we loosed in the thicket as a lure.

We awaited downwind. For two nights the lamb bleated to no purpose, and
once we had to fend off a hungry fox. On the third night the beast
himself took the bait. I might have missed him, for the night was so dark
and the wolf itself was black, but my son saw the light of its eyes and I
heard the lamb's cries turn fearful.

It had the poor dumb lamb by the throat when we sprang. It was swift and
might have escaped, but its fatal mistake was to attack rather than run.
My dagger struck through its chest and into its right lung.

As I had agreed, we bound the wolf and tied shut his jaws. We brought it
home to Rittersberg, still breathing. It was turned over to the

I pray for the man's unfortunate soul. May the law be swift and merciful.
God be praised for aiding his servant. From his hand came the strength
and the wisdom to end the killing.

Victor von Ritter, Schattenjager.

The Rittersberg Rathaus had a quaint old interior with a weathered

counter and lots of wooden chairs lined up as though they were
expecting a crowd. This seemed a tad optimistic, particularly
since an older gentleman and a woman at a decrepit typewriter were
the only signs of life. The man came over immediately and
introduced himself as the town mayor, Herr Ha-bermas. Grace gave
him the same story she'd given Herr Huber at the gasthof, and as
soon as he realized she was an American, he superceded her
faltering German with heavily accented English.

"Herr Huber mentioned a werewolf in Rittersberg many years ago,"

she told him, "and I found a mention of it in the Schattenjager
archives. I was hoping ... do you keep old town records here?"
Habermas was a pleasant-faced, plump man with magnificently
groomed white hair in a pompadoured style. He smiled proudly,
revealing stained teeth. "Miss Nakimura, our archives are some of
the best in Germany. We were too small to be bombed in the war, and
Rittersberg has been very careful about making records. Some
records date back to 1223, when the town was founded."
Grace's eyes shone with anticipation. "Would you check the
archives for me, then? The Schattenjager journal mentioned a trial
for the werewolf with a date of April 1750."

Habermas wrote it down and disappeared through an archway in the

rear. The woman at the typewriter turned and gave Grace a rosy
smile from a plain, large face. Grace couldn't help but smile

When Habermas returned, he was carrying a file. "What do you think

I did?" he asked.

"You found it?"

"I found it!" he beamed.

"What's it say?" Grace leaned over the counter eagerly, but the
scrawled German was indecipherable.

"20 April, siebzehn hundert funfzig. A werewolf was brought to

town by the Schattenjager. It was put in the dungeon . . . There
was a trial three days later. The werewolf, by the name of Baron
Claus von Ralick of Alfing, was executed here, in the town

"Baron Claus von Ralick? How'd they know? I mean, it was a wolf
when the Schattenjager brought it in, right?"

Habermas turned back a few pages. "Ja, Fraulein. It says a large

black wolf was brought to town and put in the dungeon . . . Oh!
Here. The morning after the wolf was brought to town, they found a
man in the cell. How interesting!"

"Wow. But how'd they figure out his name?"

Habermas looked through the notes and shook his head. "It is not
written. Maybe someone knew the man or maybe he told them his
name. He would have been . . . questioned most strongly."

Habermas gave Grace a knowing look, but she didn't notice. She was
thinking it through. "How'd they execute him?"
"It says his head was cut off; then he was, uh, cut into four
pieces; then they burned him at the stake."

"All three?" Grace's face scrunched in disgust.

Habermas smiled sympathetically. "In that time people believed in

evil. Not like now. Such a thing as this beast . . . they would
take no chances."

"He couldn't have escaped, then," Grace muttered to herself.

"Oh, no! Not his family either."

Grace looked up sharply. "What about his family?"

"Did I not say? It was written down. ..." He turned pages. "Here
it is. The day the werewolf changed back into a man, a group of
villagers was sent to Airing, his hometown."

"To do what?"

Habermas blinked his large watery blue eyes as if befuddled at her

question. "Miss, his wife and children would have been burned
alive also. People believed that such a thing ran in the blood."

"Oh." Grace tried to dismiss the ghastly images that came into her
head. "Uh, thanks very much for your help, Herr Habermas."

Habermas closed the file. "Kein problem, Fraulein. Do you want to

see the dungeon also?"

"The dungeon? The one von Ralick was in?"

"Ja. It is just beneath our feet. Downstairs."

The door that accessed the staircase was on the central courtyard,
separated from the public spaces of the Rathaus. They descended
down into a dank stone corridor. There was only one cell, and its
door was made of massive old wood.

Herr Habermas brought out a set of keys. He had to unlock a

padlock, then lift a heavy iron bar. They went inside.
The room was made of stone, and it had a chill that nipped at
Grace's bones. The only window was small and high up on the wall.
It was open to the air but closed to escape by means of vertical
bars. The morning air was cool, but the room itself was colder
still. It was completely empty.
Grace stood quietly, taking in the place. She knew it was her
imagination, but she sensed something tangible in the room,
something wild, something enraged, something panicky.

"Von Ralick wouldn't have wanted to change back," she said,

surprised at the clarity of this thought.
"Wie bitte?" Habermas asked, confused.

She walked around the room slowly. She could picture the beast
here, that odd feeling she often got at historical sites. It was
pure fantasy, yet sometimes it offered interesting insights. "They
put the creature in here. They were waiting for it to change back.
If it hadn't, they probably would have decided it was just a wolf.
Maybe shot it."

Habermas was watching her curiously.

"If he changed back, it was probably because he didn't have a

choice." Grace turned to look at her companion. "I wouldn't have
wanted to change. Would you?"

"I don't know."

"Especially if he knew . . . He would have known, wouldn't he?

That they'd go after his family once he was recognized?"

"If he was a baron, he would know the law well enough."

"Hmmm . . ." Grace went over to the window and looked out. Across
the square a bit of the church was visible.

"What would his last few days have been like? Would he have seen a

"Probably. There would be a last meal also."

"And the execution took place where?"

The mayor came to the window and pointed. "In the center of the
square, there. You see?"

Grace's dark eyes stared out, narrowing. "He would have seen them
preparing for it."
"Ja, Fraulein."

Whoosh. Thwack! She could almost see the practice swings of the
axman. She lowered herself from her tiptoes and suddenly felt

"Can we go now?"

Habermas must have seen something on her face, for he helped her
out with an urgency he had not yet displayed. By the time they
reached the courtyard, Grace was on the verge of either vomiting
or passing out. She sat down on the steps until the fresh air and
sunlight banished the heebie-jeebies.

The church was called St. Georg's. Of course, Grace thought, after
the patron saint of the Schattenjagers.
But if St. George was the patron saint of the Schattenjagers, it
was clear that the Schattenjagers were patron saints of the town.
On the front of the church was a plaque noting that Martin Ritter
had erected the church in 1231. And just inside the doorway a
staircase led downward. A small sign said gruft—crypt.

Although she was hardly anxious to visit another underground hole,

she couldn't resist the temptation to descend the stairway.
Fortunately, the area beneath the church was not a small, dank
space. Quite the opposite. Below the main nave was a secondary,
smaller chapel with pews and stones in the floors marking the
burial places of the townsfolk. There were Ritters here along with
other town names. But those buried beneath the chapel floor were
all women or Ritters who had died young. The dates were amazing:
Johann Ritter, beloved son, 1633-1636, Halla Ritters-berg, wife
and mother, 1582-1617. Some were not legible at all, worn smooth
with centuries of footsteps.

Beyond the chapel she found the Schattenjagers themselves. They

were in a long, broad hall made of stone, but well lit, with
casement windows lining the upper spaces of the walls and modern
lights aiding the balance against the shadows. And here were stone
sarcophagi, row upon row, some ancient, some newer, all with
coffin-shaped boxes four feet high, and on top of them were
knights in full armor carved in stone, each holding a sword.

The names were carved below the knights: Claus Ritter, Michael
Ritter, Johann Ritter, Hans Ritter, Wolfgang Ritter . . .

Grace paused at the last, a pure white sarcophagus. Yes, it did

look new, and there was a bouquet of wildflowers on the casket
that was only a few days old. Her eyes searched for a date. . . .
Died 1993. It was Gabriel's great-uncle.

She reached out a hand slowly and touched the hand of the stone

"Guten Morgan, Fraulein."

Grace turned to see a priest approaching her with a warm smile.

"Are you interested in our history?" he asked in German.

"Yes," she answered in kind. "Very much."

"What can I help you with?"

It took Grace a few minutes to communicate the request—her

vocabulary was limited and her pronunciation was not always on
track. It took her even longer to persuade the priest that he
would not be violating some divine guideline by complying. The
records were very old, Grace argued, and the interested parties
long dead. Father Getz agreed to go look to see if there even was
such a record, probably because, Grace thought, it was a bit silly
to argue over something that might not exist.
He led Grace upstairs to his office. He planted her in the chair
at his desk and disappeared again. When he returned, he had a file
in his hands. He did not resume their argument about the sanctity
of confession, to Grace's surprise. He only put the file on the
desk, gave her an unreadable look, and left.

Grace opened the file eagerly. It contained the notes of a Father

Beidermann outlining the last confession of "Baron Claus von
Ralick, a convicted werewolf." Using her pocket dictionary, she
worked out a translation.
The von Ralick family crest has long (featured?) the image of a black
wolf, for the family prided itself on its skill in the hunt and on
physical strength and speed. Claus von Ralick admits that he was reckless
in his youth—a "devil"—and that he lived up to the crest so well that he
gained the (nickname?) "the Black Wolf" from his friends. He had a
terrible temper, loved violence and fighting, and was particularly
violent with women. As caretaker of his family's lands, he felt that the
women on it were his property, and he took many against their will. His
(demeanor/attitude?) as he spoke of these things showed great remorse.

One day a party of gypsies camped on his land. He rode out with his men
to (oust?) them, and he saw a young girl who was very beautiful. He
kidnapped her against the pleas of her family and took her back to his
estate. The girl committed suicide that very night by jumping from his
bedroom window down to the yard, where the dogs were out.

The next day, an old gypsy woman came to the house and demanded to see
him. She cursed him, saying that his heart was so foul and (bestial?)
that he had earned the form of a beast as well. At the time he laughed
with his men and had the woman thrown out. But less than a month later,
the curse came true— he began changing into a wolf in the night. He has
lived with the curse ever since, often killing humans, particularly
children, and eating their flesh.

He begs God's mercy for his wife and son, that they be spared both the
stake and the curse.

I record this for the education of those who come after me. May they be
saved by God's mercy from such hellish creatures. Father Beidermann.

"The Black Wolf?" Grace said aloud. Could it be possible? Was this
werewolf case of 1750 somehow linked to Christian von Ritter's
werewolf pursuit in 1864?
"That's not possible," Grace spoke again. Von Ralick, the Black
Wolf, had been executed right there in Rittersberg. According to
the werewolf lore book, beheading, drawing and quartering, and
then burning at the stake would have been overkill—even for a
But there was something else in the file. A letter. Grace pulled
it out.

It was dated 1764, and it was from a lawyer in Buenos Aires. He

was requesting information about the trial and death of Baron
Claus von Ralick "for the family." What family? Surely von
Ralick's own offspring had perished in Airing. Distant relatives
perhaps? Grace looked at the broken wax seal on the back of the
envelope. It was black, and the image pressed into the wax was of
a wolf.

She shuddered with a sudden chill. She dropped the envelope and
rose from the desk. The priest must have heard her chair leg
squeal, for he came in immediately.

"Haben Sie etwas gefunden?" he asked her anxiously. Find anything?

Grace pulled herself out of her thoughts and gave him a smile.
"Ja. Sehr gut. Schonen Dank."

"Gerde?" Grace said as she took off her coat. "I have some
information for Gabriel. Where can I send it?"

Gerde, who was still messing with all the remodeling paperwork,
refused even to look Grace's way. "I told him I would send any
mail to his lawyer's office in Munich."

"Can I get the address?"

Without a word Gerde picked up a notepad and jotted the address

down. She ripped off the page and held it out. She did not look

Grace typed out the letter on an old typewriter in the library. It

was Gabriel's-—she'd sent it over from New Orleans herself. He had
this superstitious writer's thing about the ancient hacker. Give
her a Pentium anytime.

She put the werewolf manual and the two journals in a package and
ran down to the post office to mail it. She paid for overnight

It had been a long day and the sun was fading. She grabbed a
yogurt and some crackers from the grocery store and took them up
to Gabriel's room. Gerde did not offer her dinner, which was just
fine. Grace started a fire and settled onto the bed with her
groceries and a few Schattenjager journals to spend a quiet

From downstairs came a loud, booming knock.

She knew immediately that it was the iron knocker on the front
door. She'd heard the noise herself when she arrived, though it
had sounded less hollow and reverberating from the other side of
the door. She was up in a flash.

"Gabriel!" she muttered as she ran downstairs.

She reached the door just as Gerde was opening it. It was not
Gabriel. It wasn't even close. Out on the stoop was a middle-aged
couple—the man in a bad polyester maroon suit and slicked, dyed
black hair; the woman in a similar jumpsuit (only in hot pink) and
a light brown beehive straight out of The Simpsons.

"Can I help you?" Gerde asked, bewildered.

"Someone's home. How thrillingl" The woman sounded ecstatic.

"We're the Smiths, from Merrimac, Pennsylvania," the man


"Of course you are," Grace said blankly.

"I'm Meryl and this big lug is my husband, Emil!"

"Nice to meet you," Gerde said, still looking confused.

"Is the Schattenjager home?" Mrs. Smith asked the question as

though she couldn't keep it buttoned up behind her lips another
moment. Only she pronounced the word "Shootin' Jogger" as though
the role involved Winchesters and Nikes.

Grace and Gerde exchanged a look.

"No," said Gerde, "I'm afraid he's out of town."

Mrs. Smith's chubby face fell. "Oh, darnl And I was so hoping to
talk shop!" She leaned forward conspira-torially. "We fighters of
darkness are so rare these days."

"Tell me about it," Grace said dryly.

"How did you hear of the SchattenjagerT'' Gerde asked. She stepped
back, fighting a smile. The Smiths were more than ready to take
the plunge through the doorway. Grace could have kicked her.

"Meryl is a psychic and occultist scholar," Mr. Smith said

proudly. "She knows all sorts of things. Don't you, Mother?"

Mrs. Smith flushed with pleasure. "Well, I suppose. I was reading

about an old witch trial last spring, and I came across the
Schattenjagers. I was on a scent then, I can tell you! You all
have an amazing family tree!"

She looked from Gerde to Grace and back again, and obviously
decided Gerde looked more like the family tree she'd expected. She
beamed at Gerde and patted her hand.

"I told you we should have called first, Mother," Mr. Smith
muttered. To Gerde and Grace he said, "You don't just cross the
Atlantic and expect to find people at home. Not these days—it's
just go, go, go."

"Private phone numbers are the dickens to get from overseas, and
you know it, Em!"
"Well!" Grace looked at her watch. "Nice to meet you, but since
the Schattenjager isn't here right now . . . Maybe you could leave
your name and address?"

"Oh, we're staying right in town at that cute little gasthof,"

Mrs. Smith giggled. "We just got in! 'Course, I had to get up here
right away. That's how I am!"

"The gasthof is a very nice place," said Gerde, amusement still

evident in her arched brow. Apparently, this particular breed of
American was one she didn't run into very often.

"Yes, um, well, if he comes back anytime soon, we'll let him know
you're down there." Grace took a step forward, holding the door
open plaintively. She was dying to get back to those journals.

Mrs. Smith looked confused. "But, my dear, you two must know
something about the Schattenjager business, don't you? Will you
come by? Tomorrow perhaps? You can tell us more about the family."

Grace shot Gerde a look. Don't you dare.

Gerde smiled sweetly. "I must be very busy tomorrow, but Grace
knows more than I do anyway. She's the Schattenjager's assistant!"

"Really?" Mrs. Smith looked terribly impressed. "Then we must


She reached out her hand to pat Grace, but Grace shied away.

"Actually, I'll be very busy tomorrow myself, but, um, we'll see,"
Grace fumbled, not wanting to be completely rude.

Mr. Smith got the message. He frowned and tugged Mrs. Smith's arm.
"Come on, now, Mother. These ladies look real tired. We'd best be
getting back down to our room."

"But, Em," Mrs. Smith whined. She shot an envious glance up the

"Come on, now. Tomorrow's another day."

These words of wisdom managed to get her out on the stoop. Grace
was just about to close the doors when a pale and pudgy hand
snaked back inside and grabbed her wrist. It startled her, for
there was something off about it, something altogether too quick
and too cagey. The grip of the fingers on her wrist bone was
aching and cold.

Mrs. Smith pushed the door slowly open.

"Please . . ." Grace said nervously.

"Mother?" Mr. Smith said.

But as Mrs. Smith took a step back into the light of the room,
there was something on her face that made them all fall silent.
Her head was tilted back, and her eyes were looking straight
upward and yet somehow didn't seem to be seeing anything at all.
Her mouth was stretched in an unnatural O, and her skin had a
greenish glow under her rouge.

"Tell him ..." she whispered in a soft voice. "Tell him . . .

beware the Black Wolf!"

Chapter 3

He was sitting on the banks of a lake. He knew he was dreaming,

but the sensation was so pleasant he hung on to it willfully. It
was an alpine lake, he thought, for the grass that he lay upon ran
down to the water's edge and the lake itself was sweetly blue and
clear. Snow-capped peaks marched away on the horizon.

He wondered half-incoherently if there was such a place near

Rittersberg, and wouldn't he love to find it? Someone would know,
maybe Werner or ...

A large white swan was flying in over the lake, and now it flew
straight at him over the water's surface, feet down, wings
ballooned, poised to land. What a large creature—how magnificent,
and how close it was getting.

It landed only twenty feet from the bank. Gabriel stayed

absolutely still so as not to startle the bird. Its blue eyes were
looking right at him, right through him.

How odd. He was mesmerized.

In a heartbeat the bucolic scene around him dissolved. It was

nighttime and it was raining. He was in some German village
square, and an old-fashioned carriage was at a standstill directly
in front of him. A woman in a black knit shawl approached the
carriage. The window pushed open and a man leaned forward. The man
had an amazing face—pale with a thick black mustache. It was a
proud and terrible face, full of such sorrow and anguish, so
haunted. The woman offered the man a glass of water with a deep
curtsy and a trembling of her hand and . . .

He was back at the lake. It was so sudden, the sunlight hurt his
eyes. The swan was still swimming at him, its eyes so intent it
was a bit disconcerting and the ...

The carriage. He was at the carriage and he was closer now. The
woman handed the black-mustachioed man a glass of water, and he
glanced around, then motioned her forward. He reached into his
coat breast and passed her a roll of paper. His mouth opened and
he said something to her, something whispery Gabriel couldn't make

Like falling down a tunnel, he was slammed back to the lake. The
swan was almost at the bank now. Did swans really have such blue,
blue eyes?

And then he felt a change—a malignant presence in the bushes to

his right. He felt it, then he saw it. It crept forward from the
brush, hunched low on all fours in a feral crouch, its teeth
bared. It was a wolf; a wolf so black it was almost a hole in

The beast rushed into the water. The swan screamed and flapped its
wings. The water was spraying . . .

Gabriel uttered a cry and sat up on the couch. He remained still

for a moment, chest heaving.

He wandered back to the mailbox on bare feet, enjoying the icy

bite of the gravel. By the time he got back inside, his toes were
as wet and cold as ice cubes. He drew on a pair of white cotton
socks and sat down to read the paper.

The moment of relaxation was not to last. The cover story screamed
up at him spitefully. There had been another wolf killing, and
this one had taken place inside Munich—right downtown.

It wasn't difficult to find the crime scene. The paper had said
Filserbergstrasse, and that street, though unpronounceable, was
short and not hard to find on his city map. It was exactly three
blocks away from the hunt club on Dienerstrasse.

Doing anything useful once he got there, however, was a harder nut
to crack. Filserbergstrasse was a dead-end alley, and the police
had cordoned off the entrance. Official vehicles crowded the
street, and a TV news crew took up what space might have been left
with a van and lights. Even the gathered pedestrians—wide-eyed and
grim—were holding their ground with good old-fashioned German

Gabriel couldn't see a damn thing.

But he heard something. He heard the female news reporter call out
a name in a bid for attention that obviously failed. The name was
Kommissar Leber— the man from the paper.

He pushed his way through the crowd like an infant making its way
down the birth canal. His target was no longer the cordon's edge
but the reporter. He caught a glimpse of Leber as he went. The
kommissar was down the alley along with a half dozen other men. He
was a large man in a worn brown suit—tall and heavy with a bald
head and a fat neck. He was easily recognizable from his

Gabriel didn't bother trying to get the man's attention. Leber

hadn't even acknowledged the reporter. But that was all right.
There was more than one way to skin a cat.

He reached the van, and one of the news crew tried to push him
back. Gabriel yelled out to the woman with the microphone.

"Excuse me? Miss? I have some information you might find . . .


The reporter glanced his way. She looked highly doubtful that he
had anything at all she'd find interesting. She was attractive
(weren't they all), but she had that I-can't-be-bothered look
coating her like the skin on a sausage.

"I really think you'll want to hear this," he pressed.

He gave her his best it's-your-loss-not-mine look and wished he

had a cigarette to light just to look like he didn't give a crap.

"Nun gut, was soil's." The reporter nodded to the man who had a
hold of Gabriel's arm, and let him go. Gabriel pushed his way

"You're an American?" the reporter asked.

"That's right."

"What makes you think you have new information about these

"Well, funny thing," Gabriel began, speaking loudly. He was close

to the yellow tape now, and Leber was some twenty feet away with
his back turned. "I've been doin' some investigatin' of my own. I
tried to see Kommissar Leber over there, but he was busy. It's too
bad, actually, because I have some real important questions that
the police have never answered."

The woman looked mildly curious, especial since Gabriel was

addressing this more at Leber than at her. She motioned to the
cameraman. "Dreh schon, Dieter."

The tape began to roll. The lights switched on, nearly blinding
Gabriel in the process. The woman spoke into the microphone and
gave a brief introduction to the camera. Gabriel didn't understand
a word of it, but Leber did, for he turned slightly and looked
suspiciously at Gabriel. It was an insect-appraisal kind of stare.

"Can you tell us what you think you know?" The reporter tilted the
microphone in Gabriel's direction.
"Sure." He smiled rakishly at the camera. "I was gonna ask
Kommissar Leber how come animal hair found at the crime scene is
reddish in color when the escaped zoo wolves were gray1?"

The woman looked impressed and repeated his question in German for
the camera.

"... And why paw prints found at the scene indicate an animal much
larger than the zoo wolves species, canis lupus lupus," Gabriel
continued, speaking as loud as he could without actually shouting.
He was gratified to see Leber's face turn a quivering purple.

"Und er fragt wieso die Pfotenabdrucke am Tatort viel grafter sind

als die der Zoowolfe."

The reporter turned back to him, looking pleased with herself.

"Can you tell us how you got this information, S—?"

Hands gripped Gabriel's shoulders and lifted him up. The yellow
tape of the cordon flew by beneath his feet, and then a brick wall
slammed into his back. When the dark dots cleared, Leber was in
his face, all two hundred sixty pounds of him. His little pig-like
eyes, swollen from lack of sleep, were inches from Gabriel's own.

"Who the hell are you, and what do you think you are doing?"

"Nice to meet you, Kommissar Leber," Gabriel gasped.

"Answer my question!"

"You asked two questions, actually, which I'd be happy to answer

if I had some air."

Leber took a begrudging step back and let go of Gabriel's jacket.

Gabriel slumped a good foot down the wall before his heels touched
the ground.

"That's better." He smiled gamely. "The name's Gabriel Knight.

I've stopped by the station to see you for two days runnin', but
the man at the desk was kinda rude."

"Good! Now, how did you know about the—"

"Do you really want to discuss this here, Kommissar?" Gabriel

nodded toward the news crew, which had lights and cameras aimed
their direction.

Leber scowled. "I could have you arrested!" he hissed.

"For what? Wouldn't it be nicer if you and I got together and had
a little chat?"

Leber considered it. "I can't have you talking to reporters."

"If you'll meet me at your office later, I won't say another
word. Scout's honor."
Leber's eyes got even smaller as he did a squint-eyed
examination of this unexpected interloper. He must have bought
something on Gabriel's face, for he said, "All right. I'll be
back at the station in an hour. Don't be late."

It had been fun, but more important, it was progress. After

yesterday's fruitlessness, it made Gabriel feel immeasurably
better. Not only had he not gotten in to see Leber yesterday,
but he'd learned nothing new at the zoo, and the club had been
deserted last night. Xavier, the concierge, informed him that
Wednesdays were slow nights, while managing to convey the
impression that Gabriel himself was the reason that none of the
others had shown up. Gabriel had had a drink and left. He
honestly wasn't sure if he was disappointed or relieved to have
been spared the company of the night before.
But the evening had not been a total waste. Xavier had
reluctantly handed over von Glower's personal card before he
left, saying the baron had called to apologize for his absence
and had invited Gabriel to call on him at home.

Yet an hour wasn't long enough to hit von Glower's, and Leber
would not appreciate it if he was late. He headed for the
Marienplatz. Perhaps Ubergrau had some news from Gerde.

At the offices of Ubergrau, Hoffen & Schnell, Gabriel had to

ring the bell for the receptionist several times. He could hear
an animated conversation going on somewhere beyond the etched-
glass screen, but he couldn't make out a single word of it.

It was clear, however, that Ubergrau had been participating, for

he appeared in the lobby the minute Gabriel said his name. The
young lawyer looked excited and nervous.
"Good morning, Herr Knight! Come back to my office, please!"


"What? Oh, yes, Gabriel."

Gabriel followed him past ergonomic cubicles and curious stares.

The office was definitely not running efficiently today.

"This is so amazing!" Ubergrau said as soon as he shut the door.

"Did you hear about this new killing?"

"Yeah. I was just over there, actually."

"Verlichl What did you see?"

"A lot of police cars."

"Yes. Of course. This is most horrible!" Ubergrau was all a-


"Have you heard who the victim was?"

Ubergrau picked up a newspaper from a nearby cabinet. "They have

not announced this yet. They only say it was a male in his
fifties. They must notify first the family and so forth."


"But how could this happen here?" Ubergrau asked, still amazed.
"How could the wolves get so far into town? With all the traffic
and streets and lights? It is not as though they could take the

"Not on all fours, anyway," Gabriel muttered. He had a mental

flash of an odd furry figure dressed in a trench coat and a low-
riding hat. It was a kind of anthropomorphic character, like
something from Aesop, but there was nothing cute about it.

Fortunately, Ubergrau didn't hear him. He was still expressing

dismay over the invasion of the murders into the city's inner
sanctum. Gabriel interrupted him.

"Harry, did you get any mail for me?"

The lawyer looked abashed. "Oh! Yes! I'm so sorry!"

He buzzed his secretary, and she brought in a brown-paper-wrapped

parcel. "Here I am talking on and on, and you have business to

"It's okay, Bud."

Gabriel opened the package, hoping for something illuminating.

Inside were two journals and a book about werewolves. He tried to
shield the title from Ubergrau with the wrapping. The kid was
already too riled up. Reminded him of Grace.

There was also a letter. He had to read the first paragraph twice
because he could simply not comprehend what he was seeing at

Guess where I am? It begins with an R, ends with 'erg' and rhymes with
YOU PIG. Actually, it doesn't rhyme with YOU PIG, but I had to get that
in there somewhere. I feel much better now.

So what's the deal? You finally get a new case and I'm supposed to sit in
New Orleans and rot? Sorry, but methinks not. I'll be happy to go back to
New York once this case is over if you want to let Gerde handle things,
but this one I earned. Yes? So I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and
assume you really weren't sure it was a real case.

Here's what I've found out. 1. There was a werewolf trial here in
Rittersberg in 1750. The werewolf was a Baron Claus von Ralick, a.k.a.
the Black Wolf. Executed in a big way right here in town. Read all about
it in Victor Ritter's journal. 2. I found another case in 1864. See
journal of Christian Ritter. He was also tracking a werewolf and had a
suspect whose nickname was the Black Wolf. He never caught him— Christian
died in a fall from his horse while on the case. (Suspicious? Of course.)

I don't see how these two cases could involve the same werewolf, since
von Ralick was definitely reduced to ashes in 1750. Could "The Black
Wolf" be common? The lycanthropic equivalent of "Bubba"?

Here's my only other lead. Christian Ritter had written a letter to King
Ludwig II of Bavaria, warning him about the 1864 Black Wolf. Perhaps
there's more to be learned in Ludwig's story?

So let me know if you want me to join you there or stay here and look
into it. Hope you're safe.


Gabriel let the letter fall into his lap.

"Bad news, Herr—Gabriel?"

The American's brow was pursed in a frown. "Not sure."

Was it? Why had his pulse suddenly jack-hammered when he'd read
those opening lines? She'd seen right through his stupid phone
message, obviously, and had come at once. Now she was here, in
Rittersberg. Everything else in the letter fell away in the face
of that one fact. She was here. Of course, he'd never intended to
keep her off a case should one appear, never would have dreamed of
such a thing, but that was then and this was now. Now he was
sitting in this office in Munich, and he was staring at the
newspaper headline on the desk, and he knew that, come what may,
he did not want Grace in Munich, not anywhere near that thing.

"What do you know about King Ludwig II?" Gabriel asked abruptly.

Ubergrau looked surprised. "Ludwig II? The mad king? He built

several castles and now they're huge tourist attractions. He was
crazy, eccentric . . . He's the Bavarian enigma—like your JFK or
Elvis. Do you know, I went to Graceland once. It was—"

"Where are these castles?"

Ubergrau cleared his throat. "They're marked on all of the German

maps. Herrenchiemsee is an hour and a half southeast.
Neuschwanstein and Linderhof are southwest—two, three hours,
depending on traffic and sight-seeing stops. Do you want me to
have my secretary make you a map?"
Gabriel shook his head, pondering. "I wasn't thinkin' of goin'

"They're really quite nice if you haven't been," Ubergrau put in


"Hmmm. Would your secretary post something if I write it up now? I

need to overnight it to Rittersberg."

There was no putting it off. The wily creature had crossed the
ocean, done research, and written to him all in the forty-eight
hours or so since he'd called her. If he let this go, she'd be at
the Huber farm by noon tomorrow.

"Of course! Anything at all, H—Gabriel."

"Ah! See? You are gettin' good."

Obergrau blushed with pleasure.

The reception at the police station was more cordial this time, if
not the actual receptionist. Gabriel was buzzed in and taken back
through the corridor. The desk officer knocked on Leber's door and
didn't abandon his charge until the kommissar had bid them enter.

"Hey!" Gabriel grinned broadly as the door closed behind him. He

almost expected to hear the sound of a key in the lock.

Leber looked at his watch. "You're ten minutes late."

"I'll just go, then," Gabriel said, reaching for the knob.

"Sit down!" Leber jabbed one knobby finger at the visitor's chair
in front of his desk.

Gabriel sat, trying not to smirk. "So what's up?" He put his right
boot up on his left knee with great deliberation and let out a
contented sigh.

" 'What's up?' Let me tell you: I have a stupid American in my

office who's about to tell me what the hell he's up to or face
thirty days in the klink."

"I'm sure you'll sweet-talk it out of him," Gabriel said dryly.

Leber drummed his fingers on his desk. "Open your mouth, Mr.
Knight, and speak.'"

This guy was wound tighter then the local glockenspiel. He had
more bugs up his ass than a decaying bear in the woods. He was
stuffed tighter than brat-wurst on a summer's . . .

" 'Kay. I'll tell you where I got my info, but I have just a few
teensy-weensy questions first."

"They'd better be 'Where do you want me to start?' and 'How much

do you want to know?' "

Gabriel smiled appreciatively. "You're focused, I'll give you

that. No, what I want is just a few small facts about the case."

Leber snorted. "Never."

"Wait a minute! Here's the deal—Ich nicht spreche Deutsch. Which

means I can't even read the goddamn newspapers. All I want is the
basics. Press-release stuff."

Leber's tongue was searching out some edible in the hidden folds
of his cheek. Either that or it was trying to get loose and
attack. "All right," he said slowly.

"Great! You're a pal." Gabriel pulled out his notepad and pen. "So
how many deaths have been pinned on the wolves so far?"

"Five, if you count the one downtown."

Gabriel jotted this down. "Could there be bodies you haven't found

Leber didn't look happy with the thought. "Maybe. But the victims
were killed in broad daylight. Body parts left lying like a trail
of Brotkriimel. If there are other bodies out there, someone would
have seen them, I think."

"And when did this start exactly?"

Leber glanced at the wall near the door. There was a bulletin
board there with pictures and a large map of the area. Gabriel
cast an envious glance at it, realizing what it was: a case board.
There were things up there he wanted to know.

"Thirty-two days ago was the first," Leber said.

"The zoo wolves escaped right around then, didn't they?"

"They escaped thirty-four days ago."

Gabriel scribbled this down. Of course, he'd turned on his pocket

tape recorder as always before entering the room, but Leber didn't
need to know that.

"So what was the first attack like?"

Leber took a deep breath. His skin was slowly losing its redness,
and he seemed to be calming down a bit. Perhaps it was just that
the questions gave him bigger things to worry about than the
American seated across from him.
"A young husband and wife were taking a picnic. North near
Eching. He walks away to get some wood in the forest. When he
comes back he finds her body— some of it."

Gabriel swallowed. "Did you link it to the zoo wolves right

The policeman rubbed his forehead with a middle finger. "We knew
it was an animal attack. No one thought about the zoo wolves for
a day or two."
"And the second attack?"
Leber leaned back, sighing. "Two teenage boys. They were
climbing rocks to the east at Feldkirchen."
"Two at once?" Gabriel asked, surprised.
"Yes." Leber nodded grimly. "And they were strong boys. They had
come down from the climb and were walking to the car. A park
employee heard screams. When he got there, the boys were dead.
He didn't see the animal."
Gabriel stroked his lip with the pen thoughtfully. "That's
"Fourth was a young girl. She was killed on her parents' farm to
the southwest at Lochham. The mother saw the attack."

"What about this latest one?"

"Male. Fifty-two. He was a furrier." Leber gave a huff. "Ironic,

isn't it?"

"A furrier? That is odd. What was his name?"

Leber pursed his lips and studied Gabriel suspiciously. "We have
not released that information, Mr. Knight."
Gabriel tried to look innocent. "Oh. Okay. What's the exact
cause of death, by the way?"
Leber gestured with an open hand to his neck. "Throats crushed."

"Is that the way wolves kill in the wild?"

Leber shrugged. "So the experts tell me."

"Hmmm." Gabriel considered that for a moment. "What else does

forensics say about the killer?"
"I have told you enough, Mr. Knight. All I can say is that it is
an animal."

"An animal? As in one?"

Leber flushed. He said nothing.

"Forensics have found signs of only one animal? Not twol" Gabriel

Leber sucked in his cheeks and did not reply. He thrummed his
pudgy fingertips on the desk. It sounded like a military drum

"Jesus," Gabriel said softly. But was he really all that

surprised? Yes. For some reason he was. "What about the animal's
bite mark? Saliva? Are they normal?"

Leber stopped thrumming and looked at Gabriel, his brow knit.

"Normal for what?" he thundered.

"They're not normal, are they? Lemme guess. Forensics says the
bite marks and/or saliva are canine and closer to wolf than dog,
but beyond that they can't pin it down—nothing like it on the
records. Probably some weird hybrid."

Leber just glared at him, the spidery veins on his cheeks flushing

"Or is the saliva canine at alii" Gabriel said, suddenly feeling


Leber slammed his hand down on his desk with a loud crack.
"Enough! You know something, Mr. Knight. Do you want to tell me
now, or do you want us to extract it the hard way?"

The Kommissar rolled the r in extract threateningly. He had his

hands poised on the desktop as though preparing to spring.

"All right! Don't get excited! I'm a private investigator. I'm

lookin' into the death of Toni Huber."

Leber didn't exactly relax, but he looked less prepared to leap

and conquer. He stared at Gabriel with those beady eyes. "Who
hired you?"

"I'm a friend of the Hubers' cousins. They asked me to look into


Leber stood up. He jingled some loose change in his pocket. "They
don't believe it was the zoo wolves, then," he muttered. Before
Gabriel could even begin to answer, Leber did it for him. "No. Of
course not. The mother saw it."
Leber turned to Gabriel. "So you know the animal was red—the
mother told you that. How did you know about the size? She
couldn't judge such a thing."

"I found some evidence at the Huber farm—a paw print and some
hair. I took it over to the university for analysis."

Leber nodded. "Very well. I want that evidence. I want you to

bring it here." He pointed at the floor beneath his feet.

"Sure. So why are you lettin' everyone believe it's the zoo wolves
when you know it's not?"

Leber sat back down. He straightened his tie. "First, it's none of
your business. Second, we don't know for certain that it was not
one of the escaped wolves—"

"But the killer is nothing like the zoo wolves!"

Leber made a moronic you-never-know expression. "Two wolves

escaped from the zoo. We don't know that they were like the ones
that did not escape."

Gabriel blew a pshah sound. "I think the zoo would have known if
it had a huge, reddish-brown wolf hybrid in the kennel."

Leber made the face again. "I only said it is possible. Third, if
we tell the newspapers we do not know what it is, this is much
worse for the public than being afraid of the zoo wolves. You

Gabriel thought about it. "In other words, people might panic if
you admit you haven't the first freakin' clue what's goin' on."

Leber sucked in his cheeks. The man was stiffer than a new pair of
lederhosen on a washline in Jan—

"That is the decision of men who outrank myself. As for you, Mr.
Knight, it is none of your damn business."

"Plus, I bet it also helps to keep the public outrage focused on

the zoo. Right now it's their fault as much as yours. Am I right?"

"So you will say nothing to the newspapers," Leber continued.

"When we have caught something—even one of the zoo wolves, then .
. ."

"Why haven't you caught the zoo wolves?" Gabriel asked abruptly.
He leaned forward, curious. "I mean, they're just two wolves,

Leber ignored him. ". . . and if you do say anything to the papers
or television, you will be arrested. Is that clear?"
Gabriel sighed. Clearly, the interview was over. "Yeah. Whatever."
He rose and stretched, turning casually toward the case board. He
held the yawn for a moment, his eyes searching feverishly until he
found the information he sought. He made a mental note of the
name, suppressed a grin, and turned. "I do have one more thing
before I go. I mean, it's probably nothing."


"Is there any connection to this case and a black wolf?"

Leber grunted. "No! You said yourself, the zoo wolves are gray and
the killer is rot."

"All right. Never mind." Gabriel went over to the door. "Thanks
for the chat, Kommissar."

But Leber had an odd look on his face. "Wait." He got up and went
over to a filing cabinet. He sorted through it for a moment, then
brought a file back to his desk.

"What is it?"

"A missing-persons case. It happened in a town called Kirchl in

the Naturpark Schwabisch-Frankischer Wald ten years ago." Leber
flipped through the file.

"It was sad—a teenage girl, very pretty. We thought she had run
from home, but we never found her."

"And this has somethin' to do with a black wolf?"

"Ja. I just remembered. There was an old woman who lived in the
forest. She told the police that 'the wolf killed the girl. She
was always complaining about a huge black wolf in the forest. The
townspeople looked into it, but they found nothing. They decided
she was verruckt—crazy."

Gabriel frowned. "And there was no blood in the woods? Nothin'?"

Leber shook his head. "Nothing. There were no wolves in the

Schwabisch-Frankischer Wald—then or now. Never heard of such a
thing as wolf attacks— not until this case."

"Well . . . it's probably not related," Gabriel said slowly.

"Probably not."

It was noon by the time Gabriel left the police station. He was
close to the Marienplatz and he had something new to run by the
Kid, so he went back to Ubergrau's office. Unfortunately, Harry
was at lunch. Gabriel didn't have any better luck with the baron.
When he called the phone number on von Glower's card, a polite
male informed him that von Glower had been out of town last night
and had not yet returned home. Would the gentleman call back in
another hour or so?

He was glad he hadn't wasted all the U-Bahn connections getting

over there. He'd looked up the address last night. The baron lived
south at the edge of Munich near a park called Perlacher Wald and
the U.S. base. It was not a short trip. Gabriel headed back to the
club instead, hoping to sniff out something useful.

The truth was, he hadn't bothered to look around the club last
night for several reasons. For one thing, nobody else was there,
and that had been both disappointing and boring (yes, they were
weird, but then, he'd been alone in a castle with Gerde for the
past year). For another, he'd more or less reached the opinion
that the club had very little to do with the killings. The lodge
was a stuck-up, self-important, and eccentric group, that much was
obvious. But what use were they on the case other than providing
an opportunity to watch Klingmann, maybe learn some background
data on him that would prove incriminating? Even at that, what
kind of incriminating evidence was there to find? Klingmann's
relationship to the real killer was getting more tenuous by the
moment. If the real killer was not one of the zoo wolves, then
Klingmann probably had nothing to do with the case at all.

Or so he'd thought last night. Today things looked a little

different. What did Klingmann and the latest killing have in
common besides the zoo wolves? The club. The latest attack was
only three blocks from the club.

Yes, it was definitely time to get a bit nosier at the ol' huntin'

Xavier looked as pleased to see him as ever. "Don't you have

anything else to do in Munich, Herr Knight?"

"I could go stand in the middle of the road or jump off the
Rathaus tower," Gabriel said sweetly. "But I dunno. I'd rather
talk to you. Call me a masochist."

Xavier expelled a short breath from his nostrils in what would

have been a sniff, had it been going the other way. "The gentleman
is hilarious."

"Really? I'll tell him when I see him."

"What do you want, Herr Knight? If you've come for a free drink,
the bar is in the back, I'm sure."

"I'd hope you'd be sure. How long've you been here anyway?"

It was the opening he'd been hoping for, though the segue was
weak. Gabriel strolled over and leaned on Xavier's desk. It was
the sort of pulpit-style work-center at which one stood, not sat,
so leaning was tempting. Besides, it would no doubt irritate the
concierge intensely.

"Since 1970," Xavier said. He was proud of the fact, poor sod.

"Is that when the club started?"

"Die Koniglich-Bayrische Hofjagdloge is practically ancient.

However, it was revitalized in the seventies."

"How's that?"

"Baron von Glower joined. He brought a new vision." Xavier had

that adoring/toadying expression again.

"Huh," Gabriel said. He tried to look bored.

Xavier grew irritated. "He did. The lodge had nearly died out
before he came. Hunting is not as popular as it used to be."

"No kiddin'? Can't imagine why. So what did von Glower do


"He brought . . . enthusiasm." He pronounced it 'in-twosie-azim.'

"You wouldn't understand."

"Maybe. This place still isn't exactly burstin' at the seams,

though. Is it?"

Xavier flushed. "Quantity of members is not our priority. The

baron chooses quality." He looked at Gabriel pointedly. "With the
rare exception, of course."

Gabriel smiled and batted his eyes. "Is that so? How many members
are there anyway?"

Xavier had to think about it for a moment. "Five now. Not

including you."

"Have you lost someone recently?"

"Of course not."

"You had to add it up just now."

Xavier sighed. "Besides yourself, we've had another recent


"Klingmann," Gabriel guessed.

"Yes, Herr Doktor joined us a few weeks ago."

"Uh-huh. Did von Glower pick him out too?"

Xavier snorted. "Really, I don't gossip about clubmembers! How
Klingmann was chosen for membership is his own affair. Now please
move along."
But Gabriel only leaned in further and smiled lazily. "In a sec. I
have one more question. Have you ever heard of 'the black wolf?"

"What kind of a black wolf?" Xavier said, annoyed.

"Oh, any kind."

"No." Xavier made a shooing gesture. "Now run along. Go get

yourself a drink or leave or ... something."

Gabriel went to go get a damned drink.

He wandered around, a short mug of beer in one hand. Over here was
a fireplace, a moose head, and lots of deer antlers. Over there,
the bar, a couple of leather chairs, sofa, coat rack, wood
paneling run amok.

At the back of the great room was a hallway. It lead to a back-

street exit, this one (as Gabriel saw when he poked his head out)
leading to an alley behind the building. It locked heavily when he
pulled it shut.

Besides this door at the back of the hall, there were two other
doors here, both on the left-hand wall. The first led to bathroom
facilities done in a manly style. No women broached this domain,
that was evident. The second door was locked.

Gabriel poked his head back into the great room to make sure no
one was about, then gave up a silent prayer for the health of
Xavier's bladder and went back to the locked door. It was an old
door, not originally fitted with a lock. A modern dead bolt had
been installed some years ago above the knob. This would certainly
not be the first time Gabriel had picked a dead bolt. He used to
lock himself out of St. George's at least once a month.
Fortunately, the thieves on Bourbon Street were no more interested
in his wares than the tourists, so he was the only one ever to
bust the useless thing.

He took his Louisiana driver's license from his wallet and slid it
into the crack in the door jamb. He wiggled it, worked it up. The
door popped open.

Inside was a flight of stairs that led down to a basement. Gabriel

flicked on the light and closed the door softly behind him.

How now, little logen cow? he thought as he descended the stairs.

The ceiling was cut off low, and he had to stoop as he went.
Despite the overhead bulb somewhere down below, there was a strong
feeling of darkness to the place that made him nervous. He
clutched the railing. He told himself it was because the stairs
were steep.

When he cleared the overhang and got his first shot of the
basement, he expelled a short gasp of alarm. The first thing that
caught his eye were the heads, huge heads; lions and tigers,
alligators and cheetahs, a black panther.

"Christ," he muttered.

They were stuffed, of course, but there was nevertheless an

immediate fleeing response, ingrained in the species from more
vulnerable days. He took a deep breath and tried to slow his
hammering pulse. The sense of something lurking remained long
after his brain told the fear impulse it was being idiotic.
Perhaps it was the faint scent of decay that filled the room like
cotton in a chloroform bottle, a determined insistence upon death
that nothing in the taxidermist's bag of tricks could completely
camouflage. But there was something else in the air too. Gabriel's
brain sought to sort and identify it—incense. Odd.

He descended the rest of the way down the stairs. The trophy heads
each bore a plaque with a name and a date. Von Zell, 27/6/91; Von
Glower, 3/4/87; Preiss, 17/8/83. He frowned. Where were they
hunting these things, anyway? And why keep these trophies down
here while the less impressive ones—the deer and the elk—were
displayed in the great room?

Because it's probably juckin' illegal that's why.

Yes. Good point. It ought to be, at any rate. He moved from trophy
to trophy, reading the names of the hunters. He found no names he
didn't recognize, and Klingmann was not on any of them. Xavier had
told the truth, then; Klingmann had just joined. What Xavier
hadn't mentioned was how von Glower and von Zell dominated the
club. Hennemann, Preiss, and von Aigner had only a few trophies
apiece while Von Zell and von Glower each had a dozen or more.

The feeling of being someplace very unpleasant did not dissipate

as he moved around the room. A glass-enclosed rack of polished
teak and gleaming metal firearms didn't help. There was even a
lethal bow and arrow set in the case. The smell of incense
continued to grow until he found the source. Against the wall
opposite the stairs was a table covered with a red cloth. On the
table were two candelabra and an incense bowl. Several necklaces
made from what looked like claws were laid out, and a wolf's skull
took center place like an idol.

Gabriel stared at the tableau, baffled. What the hell were these
guys playing at? Tarzan, Lord of the Apes meets Masonic Lodge 357?

I've got a better one for you: if they don't draw the line at hunting
down and slaughtering an endangered species now and then, where do
they draw it . . . hmmm?
He shook his head. He was getting paranoid. What use would a
werewolf have for rifles and taxidermists? Whatever these men's
sins were, they were entirely human ones so far. Then his eyes
fell on something else on the table—a black book. It was a slim
appointment book, the kind that businessmen carry. He picked it up
and opened it to a tabbed page at the back.
Preiss—100,000 Aigner— 4-H* 700,000 Hennemann—30,000

Gabriel whistled. "Holy alimony. Either the club dues is way outta
hand, or—"

The door at the top of the stairs opened. Gabriel froze. Xavier,
no doubt, looking for the missing wanderer.

He put the book down hurriedly and took a few steps from the
table. Someone was coming down the stairs. He looked around,
panicked. There was absolutely no place to hide. He gave up and
tried to look natural—and stupid.

When the stair descender's upper torso appeared, Gabriel saw that
it was not Xavier at all but Baron von Zell. Gabriel cringed—it
could hardly be any worse. He tried to dumb down his dumb look.
Von Zell glanced up and saw Gabriel. He stopped instantly,
completely thrown off guard. His eyes were huge.

"What are you doing down here, Mr. Knight?" It was a reasonable
enough question, but the tone in which it was spoken was hubris

"Hey, Baron von Zell!" Gabriel tried, waving an awkward hand. "I
was just lookin' around the club. Nice room, huh?"

"The basement is for members only!" Von Zell said scathingly.

"Oh? Really?" Gabriel thought the blush, at least, had to be

convincing. "I am sorry. My word! I'll go right up."

Gabriel crossed to the bottom of the stairs and waited for von
Zell to move. He didn't. He was glaring at Gabriel suspiciously.
"The door was not locked?"

"Huh? Oh, huh-uh." Gabriel tried to look virtuous. "It just


Von Zell uttered a low growl of irritation. "All right. Go

upstairs. Now."

Von Zell pushed past Gabriel—with a bit more shove than was
necessary—and finished his descent. Gabriel started up the stairs
slowly, watching what von Zell was up to. The man went directly to
the table and picked up the black book. He walked back to the
stairs and practically pushed Gabriel up the rest of the way.
When they reached the upstairs hall, von Zell shut the door firmly
and tried the handle. It was locked. He gave Gabriel another
doubtful look, then walked away. Gabriel heard him cross the great
room and then scream at Xavier in German in the lobby.

Gabriel felt a tad guilty, but not much.

He wandered into the great room and poured himself another drink.
Von Zell came back carrying a newspaper. He seated himself near
the fire.

"Can I get you a drink, Baron von Zell?"

"No," von Zell said sharply. "I only have a few minutes between
appointments." He opened the paper.

"Kay." Gabriel brought his drink over to the fireplace and sat
down in a chair. Von Zell lifted his newspaper higher.

"So you work downtown, huh? What is it that you do, Baron?"

Von Zell did not lower the paper. "My family is in banking. If you
were German, you would know that."

"Ah!" Gabriel gave a deep, bored sigh.

Von Zell turned a page and said nothing.

"I, uh, I noticed you're a darn good hunter," the American

drawled. "I saw your name on lots of those trophies downstairs?
Very impressive."

Von Zell lowered the paper and peered at Gabriel with narrowed
eyes. He seemed to be considering the hidden agenda in this

"Yes," he said briefly. "Von Glower and I are the best." He went
back to his paper.

" 'Course, huntin's like anythin' else, I guess. Ya need lots of

practice. I don't get to hit the woods as often as I'd like."

Von Zell lowered the newspaper with a crash into his lap.
"Hunting," he said with great enunciation, "is a matter of the
will, of the soul. It is not about target practice."

Gabriel shrugged. "Oh, I dunno. It always helps my game to spend

some time in the arcades. Maybe it doesn't seem that way to you
because you do it so often—I mean, it doesn't seem like practicin'
cause you're actually just doin' it." He laughed in a forced way.
"How often do ya'll go huntin', anyway?"

Von Zell scowled, obviously not at all sure how to deal with
Gabriel and not interested, truth be told, in dealing with him at
all. "Once a month the lodge hunts together." He paused. "It is
true that von Glower and I go more often than the others, I

He smirked a bit and lifted the paper.

"You and von Glower go every weekend?"

"We used to," came the muffled response.

"Ya see? No wonder you two are so damned good!"

Von Zell said nothing.

"Hey, ya'll musta been tight goin' out every weekend together. How
come ya don't go out that often anymore?"

Von Zell glared at him over the page. He appeared unsure of a

response. "I suppose I have simply . . . outgrown his methods. As,
I'm sure, he will outgrow you. Imminently."

Gabriel's smile curled up a bit. He forced his lip down. "Speakin'

of huntin', ya ever heard of the Black Wolf?"

"No." Von Zell sounded bored and annoyed. He stood up and tossed
the paper down. He had clearly decided to go spend his lunchtime
elsewhere—anywhere more quiet.

"Huh. Bet ya'll go on a lot of huntin' trips abroad, though,

right? What, like to the Orient or somethin'?"


"But ... far as I know, they don't have panthers in Germany. Or

tigers." Gabriel grinned lopsidedly.

Von Zell exploded. There was no other way to describe it. One
moment he was patronizing. The next he was livid. He crossed the
distance between them and had Gabriel pinned up against the back
of his chair before Gabriel even knew what hit him.

"Listen, you ignorant little pig! You don't know anything about
this club, and what you don't know is none of your business! The
trophies in the basement are none of your business! Where we hunt
and how we hunt and what we hunt are none of your business! And
you'd better keep your nose out of our business and keep your damn
mouth shut. Because if you don't, I will hunt you down myself. Is
that clear?"

The man's once handsome face was twisted with rage. His eyes were
positively insane.

"Sure. I'm sorry. No problem," Gabriel said in a small voice.

Von Zell backed off. He tore himself away (Gabriel swore later
that he had not mistaken this) like an alcoholic passing a liquor
store window. Without another word he turned and left the room.
Gabriel saw Xavi-er's scared face peeking in from the front hall
for just a second before it dodged away. He reached down and
checked. He had not peed his pants.

He left the club and walked back down Diener-strasse to the

Marienplatz and Harry's office. This time Harry was in.

"Ja, here it is," Obergrau said, returning from the hall and his
most recent errand. "Herr Heffel Grossberg, furrier. Business
office, 172 Silber-hornstra(3e."

He handed Gabriel a piece of paper with the address on it.


"It was very considerate of Kriminalkommissar Leber to give you

this name. It hasn't been in the newspapers yet."

"We bonded, what can I say?" Gabriel tucked the paper in the
pocket of his jeans. Harry didn't need to know that he'd stolen
the name of the most recent victim from Leber's case board.

Ubergrau sat back down and studied Gabriel with bright eyes. "Have
I told you how much I like P. D. James? I just finished the one
about the nuclear power plant."

"Um, no. When I'm in the mood for that British stuff, I go right
for the jugular: A.C."


"Agatha Christie."

"Ah!" Obergrau's face lit. "There was this one set on a train, you
know? And this man—"

"Harry," Gabriel interrupted gently, "there was one more thing."

"I'm sorry. Yes?"

"I need a newspaper search done."

"No problem! What are you looking for?"

"Missing-persons cases. I'm only interested in ones that occurred

near medium to large-sized forests."

Ubergrau took a pad of paper and a pen from his upper drawer and
wrote it down. His ears—so prominent with his short-clipped
haircut—tinged pink with excitement.

"Medium to large-sized forests. Yes. How far back do you want to

Gabriel drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. "Well ... I
could really use it back twenty years, I guess, but I hate to put
you out."

"No problem! My secretary can start this afternoon. The main

library, it has the newspapers archived on microfiche, and there
exists an index for the major stories. With the index such a
search would not be unreasonable. I can have it for you by

"Harry, you are a wonder."

He took the U6 train south and then Ul east to Silberhornstrafle.

Fortunately, it was on the way to von Glower's, so he wouldn't
waste much time

Number 172 was five blocks from the U-Bahn station. The area went
from congested and commercial to seedy as he walked. The building
itself was an old high-rise. Grossberg's name was all that was
listed near the buzzer out front.

The interior of the office was even seedier than the exterior. The
rug was threadbare and the furniture was cheap. A chunky blonde
sat at the lone desk in the outer office. She wore a sweater as
threadbare as the rug and a short brown wool skirt that was natty
and clumped with wear. She'd been crying. She looked up as Gabriel

"Hi, I'm an American associate of Grossberg's?" Gabriel tried to

look serious and businesslike.

The secretary threw her tissue in the trash can and grabbed

"Herr Grossberg is dead," she said bluntly. "I was going to close
the office."

This provoked a fresh round of tears. Gabriel waited awkwardly.

"That's terrible news about Grossberg. Won't someone be comin' in

to take over?"

"I don't know. I don't know even if Herr Grossberg has family."

"He didn't have any business partners, then?"


"What exactly did Herr Grossberg do?"

The secretary looked up at him with baffled, red-rimmed eyes.

"I mean ... I know what he did for me, but, um, what else did you
do here in the office?"
"Imports and exports. I never saw the furs myself. Herr Grossberg,
he has a warehouse on the other side of town."

"Ah!" Gabriel said lamely. He wondered what the hell he was doing
here. "Did Herr Grossberg belong to a club, by any chance? A men's
huntin' club?"

The secretary took a deep sniff and frowned. "I never heard him
say so." She considered it. "No, I don't think he would go to
something like that."

No, Gabriel thought, glancing around the office. Herr Grossberg

wasn't quite in the same league as the boys from the Hofjagdloge,
was he?

The secretary opened a Rolodex. "Would you give me your name,

please? I was going to make a letter to everyone in the file
telling them about Herr Grossberg's death. I can take you from the

She looked up tiredly. Her hair was black at the roots and
unwashed. He realized that beneath her makeup she was quite young—
perhaps no more than nineteen. And newly unemployed. Gabriel felt
sorry for her.

"Urn, Knight. Herr Knight."

She flipped through the cards. Most of them, Gabriel noted, were

"No, I'm not finding you. There is nothing under K."

"Try under 'von,' 'von Knight,' " Gabriel said, bargaining for
time. He was trying to think of what else he could ask her, with
little success.

The secretary looked impressed. She spun the Rolodex in a

remarkable imitation of Vanna White. Her fingers caught the roller
at the V's with great deftness and began walking through the

"Von Aigner, von Dussen, von Stein . . . No, I'm not finding you."

Gabriel stared at her wordlessly, so flummoxed he was unable to

get his tongue to work. "Excuse me, did you say von AignerT'


"Is he a really big guy? Laughs a lot?"

The secretary sighed. "I never met him. I have met only a few of
Herr Grossberg's associates. Mostly they ring on the phone."

"Oh. Well, thanks anyway."

The secretary pushed the Rolodex away. "If this is about money,
you will be disappointed."

"How's that?"

"I know that Herr Grossberg owed many people money. They ring here
all the time. Sometimes they come to the office. But Herr
Grossberg, he was much behind on his debts, and I don't think
there was anything in the accounts when he died."

She stood up and fished a large handbag from beneath the desk. She
opened it and put the Rolodex inside.

"As a matter of fact, he did owe me somethin'," Gabriel said

quickly. "Is there any way I could look at his books? At least see
if his accounts agree with my own? That way, if there's any
estate, it will be easier for a lawyer to claim my share."

He smiled engagingly at the secretary, hoping his charm would win

her over, but she only gave a bitter chuckle. "There is no estate,
Herr von Knight. He liked the horses, you understand? Also, the
police took all of Herr Grossberg's papers. They took everything
this morning."

"Oh," Gabriel said, cursing his luck.

"I think I will go home now to write those letters. Let me walk
you out."

Gabriel went over it in his mind during the bus ride from the U-
Bahn station to von Glower's house. Grossberg was a furrier, a
gambler with a seedy business that was barely hanging on. Imports
and exports. Of what? Furs, the girl had said. Was that it?
Grossberg certainly didn't appear to actually manufacture furs.

A middle man, then. A man who claimed to be a furrier, perhaps

even had some training, but he was a salesman now, nothing more.
And he knew von Aigner.

There was something there, Gabriel could feel it, but he couldn't
quite tap what it was. Hell, he didn't even know what von Aigner
did for a living or anything at all about him other than his
presence as a member of the club.

It was time to try to remedy that.

* * *

Von Glower's house was a large residence painted the palest of

yellows with a garden in front. It was across the street from a
public park that looked more like a groomed forest, with walking
paths that stretched away into the distance. A group of young
schoolchildren with backpacks were unloading from a van and
preparing to embark on a hike.
Gabriel walked to the front door and rang the bell.

The door was answered by an older gentleman in a formal gray suit.

Yes, the baron was home now. He took Gabriel's coat and showed him
into a lush, masculine living room. Leather couches in soft tan
and vibrant oriental throws created a warm interior. As Gabriel
waited, he noticed a Frankfurt paper and car keys lying on an end
table. The baron had been out of town, then.

"Gabriel!" Von Glower greeted him warmly as he entered. He grasped

his guest's hand in one of his own and half embraced him with the
other. His welcome was so open-handed that Gabriel felt guilty.

"It was nice of you to invite me, Baron von Glower."

"Call me Friedrich, please! Gunter, bringen Sie uns bitte ein

zweites Glas Wien."

"Ja, Baron."

"Please, sit down." Von Glower motioned to the sofa. They both
sat, one on each end.

"I suppose I should have waited a few days before stoppin' by, but
I really am curious about the club."

"Not at all! My invitations are most earnest."

Gunter returned with two crystal glasses of red wine on a tray.

"Do you like wine?" Von Glower asked. "I got hooked on the grape
myself when I lived in France."

"You lived in France?"

"Oh, yes. I've lived all over."

"Are you from Germany originally?"

Von Glower smiled and picked up his glass. "No, but my parents
were. Prost!"

"Prost." Gabriel sipped the wine. "Good stuff."

"I like the best." Von Glower studied Gabriel ap-praisingly. "And
you? Were you born and raised in America?"

"New Orleans."

Von Glower settled back into the sofa, his dark eyes never leaving
Gabriel's face. "And what is it that you write?"

Gabriel cleared his throat. His books weren't exactly highbrow.

Besides, he was supposed to ask the questions. "I'm sure there're
more interestin' subjects," he said.
"I hope you will forgive my inquisitiveness. You see, I like few
people, and when I do find someone I like, it's a pleasure getting
to know them—new thoughts and impressions uncovered and examined
one by one, like rare birds."

Gabriel wondered if the baron was quoting someone. Perhaps he was,

but it was not done lightly— his eyes were personal and ingenuous.
Gabriel leaned forward and put down his glass to have something to
do. "That's inquisitive, all right."

He was losing his footing, and quickly too. He glanced up from

under his lashes; sought for and found nothing predatory in his
host, nothing manipulative or sarcastic—only sincere male
camaraderie. It was so generously proffered that it truly
bewildered Gabriel. Given his real purpose at the club . . . here,
he was at a loss as to how to deal with it. Rudeness was an easier
hurdle somehow.

Von Glower rumbled a low laugh. "On the other hand, perhaps it's
mere boredom. When people get to know each other, well, there's
nothing new to say. I dearly love my friends at the club, but we
reached this stage long ago."

"How long have you known the men at the club?" Gabriel asked,
breathing a sigh of relief.

"Hmmm. Most of the men have been with me at least ten or fifteen
years. Is it not amazing how time flies?"

"You said it. What about Doktor Klingmann?"

"Oh! Yes, forgive me. Herr Doktor is very new, like yourself."

"Then you can't be as bored as you claim."

Von Glower made a dismissive gesture. "To tell you the truth, I
don't know the man very well, nor have I made an effort to. There,
you see? You caught me. I told you, I am very selective. Klingmann
seems perfectly fine, but not in the least interesting. Am I a
terrible ass?"

"You're entitled to your opinion," Gabriel said, but he was

puzzled. If von Glower hadn't brought in Klingmann, who did?

"So how'd you end up in Munich, Friedrich?"

"I was just going to ask you the same question."

Gabriel smiled. "You first."

"All right. My circumstances are probably not much different than

your own. I wanted to return to the land of my ancestors and so I
did. And you? Or had I better ask how your family ended up in
America in the first place?"
"My grandfather left the family and moved to New Orleans."

Von Glower gazed at him curiously. "But you chose to return. Why?"

Gabriel opened his mouth to speak some meaningless lie but found
that he didn't have the heart for it. He sighed. "To tell you the
truth, I didn't have a hell of a lot of choice."

He tried to add a lighthearted grin, but it fizzled out in a

drenching bitterness that welled up from out of nowhere. He pushed
it aside. What was that about?

Van Glower was nodding thoughtfully. "I understand. Are there

other Ritters besides yourself?"

"Nope," Gabriel answered. He picked up a glass and held it to the

light self-consciously.

"Well, it was your duty, then. Sometimes there's no escaping it.

Have you produced your heir?"

Gabriel laughed. "God, no!"

Von Glower smiled. "No, you don't strike me as a family man. Ah,
well. I suppose all trees eventually stop bearing fruit."

Von Glower refilled his glass, and Gabriel felt that confusion
imbue him again. He was relating far too well to this magnetic
man. He was more vulnerable than he'd realized, after his year
alone and all the unanswered questions, all the changes. And why
the bitterness? Was it from finding out he had a real family after
all, but that the other members of it were dead by the time he'd
arrived, leaving him with naught but some musty journals? Wolfgang
had not lived long enough to answer the thousands of questions
Gabriel had, to fill the hole that the death of his father and
grandfather had left in an infant boy's life.

He got up as if to distance himself physically as well as mentally

and wandered over to the fireplace to look at the objects d'art on
the mantel. He resolved to be ruthless.

"I wanted to talk to you about the club, Friedrich. I was over
there earlier, and I found this room downstairs when I was lookin'
for the bathroom? I didn't mean to pry or anythin', but I noticed
there was this kinda altar-and-candle business. You all are into
somethin' a little heavier than marksmanship. Am I right?"

He turned and gave von Glower an innocent smile and braced himself
for the explosion. None came. The baron was simply sitting on the
couch. He crossed one long leg easily and looked back at Gabriel
with a hint of amusement. "You're determined to know our secrets
as well, aren't you?"

"No. I mean, the door was open and . . ."

"It doesn't matter. Yes, the men and I have a kind of philosophy.
I don't mind sharing it with you at all.

But are you sure you want to know? I can get quite verbose on the

"I want to know." Feeling more sure of himself now, Gabriel

wandered back to the couch and sat down.

"All right. The basis of our philosophy is a desire to reconnect

with our true physical nature."

Von Glower took a drink of wine and put his glass down carefully.
He watched Gabriel as though waiting for a reaction.

"Go on."

"Think of it this way: what makes man different from every other
species on this planet?"

Gabriel shook his head.

"Civilization! Don't get me wrong—I don't resent progress. I enjoy

the finer things in life as much as any man. But I recognize that
without supreme effort of will, luxury leads to laziness. Over the
centuries since our ancestors stalked their daily food in the
woods, we have gained much, but we have lost as well. We have lost
certain skills, perhaps even certain physical traits. Modern man
is like a dulled, rusty blade!"

"What kinds of traits?" Gabriel asked, his pulse quickening.

"Our sensory power, our instinct! Think of a beast in the woods.

It sees, it smells, it feels everything around it. It knows from
the scents on the wind whether another animal has passed days
before and in which direction lies food and water. It can sense
the most silent danger."

Gabriel had a brief flash of the beast stalking Toni Huber. He

swallowed. "And man doesn't?"

"No! You put civilized man in the woods, and he might as well be
deaf, dumb, and blind!"

Von Glower had warned Gabriel about his enthusiasm, and here it
was. His words were pointed and sharp; his delivery impassioned.

"But we don't need the skills that, say, a wolf has,"

Gabriel said slowly, but von Glower didn't flinch. "And . . .

maybe we never had them at all," he continued. "Weren't we given
brain power instead?"

"Who says we never had them? Can a blind man not improve his sense
of smell and hearing? Can Native Americans and other shamen not
read the forest the way the white man cannot? We had those senses,
that power! But as generations of city dwellers failed to use
their more acute senses, genetically they began to fall away, the
way limbs wither when not exercised!"

"And you hope to ... to—"

"To reclaim them!" Von Glower's voice was zealous. "Not just to
halt the degeneration but to reawaken that which was lost!"

Gabriel took a deliberately drawn-out drink of wine, his mind

stunned by the implications of this speech on his case. Perhaps
von Glower read this as doubt, for he leaned forward and spoke
urgently. "Come, Gabriel! Think about the phenomenon of
extrasensory perception. Now and then an individual is born who
has true powers—to read minds or perhaps move small objects by
thought alone. Have you ever wondered where this power comes from?
There are those who say these so-called freaks are harbingers of
the future. Not I! With our fax machines and modem lines, what
need have we for ESP? Why would evolution award it to us? No! I
say these powers are throw-backs to the past—mental equivalents of
vestigial tails!"

Gabriel found that his mouth was hanging open. He abruptly shut
it. "It's . . . um . . . it's an interestin' theory, Friedrich. Do
you have any proof that such powers are recoverable?"

Von Glower's intensity faded into a frustrated pen-siveness. "I

have felt some things myself—sharper hearing, keener smell. But
documentable proof? That is harder. To what extent we can recover
our primal senses—or even what those senses might prove to be—that
is what we still struggle to find out."

"I take it that huntin' is part of this recovery process?"

"Of course," von Glower said, brightening again. "Just

reconnecting with nature is important, but hunting is even better.
Hunting is the closest we can get to our ancestry."

"You could try gettin' eaten by a lion," Gabriel quipped.

Von Glower smiled. "True, but the benefits are short-lived."

They were both quiet for a moment, then Gabriel said, "There's
somethin' I still don't understand. Where are you goin' with this?
I can understand how these rejuvenated senses could be useful for
huntin' itself, or even if you wanted to live in the woods or
expected the apocalypse or somethin'. But ... I don't get the
feeling that's your angle."

Von Glower looked at him appreciatively. "You have a way of

finding the heart of things, don't you?"
Gabriel shrugged, embarrassed. He had an odd sensation of being a
pupil at the foot of his teacher.

"The application, yes, that is the question. No, we're not going
to live in the woods. Look at us. You have seen something of our
group. What is our angle?"

Von Glower studied him, waiting. Gabriel considered. "Money?"

"Yes," the baron said slowly.


"Power is a better word, but yes. So how does the philosophy


Gabriel thought about it. At last he shook his head. "I'm not

Von Glower leaned forward. "The Germans have a word—Ubermann, the

super human. If we can regain these powers, why be anything less?"

"And if you can be the Ubermann, you'll have an advantage over

those who are not," Gabriel said, finally getting it.

"Of course!"

"So you can use these sharpened instincts in the boardroom and
against your competition, is that it?"

Von Glower smiled and leaned back contentedly. "Something like

that. First, all of the men I chose for the club are excellent
specimens—bright, strong, from excellent families, in good
positions. The philosophy makes them more fully realized, yes? The
men may each view their use of the philosophy in different ways,
but to create a superior man, a man who brings the full physical
and psychic skills of the wild to the modern world and dominates
his setting, yes. That's about right."

It was an intriguing idea, and no doubt a seductive one to those

chosen to participate. But it didn't exactly jive with what
Gabriel had seen of the club members so far.

"How has it affected the men? It's been fifteen years for most of
them, you said."

Von Glower flushed with pride. "They are all at the top of their
fields. Von Aigner, for example, owns one of Germany's largest
meat-butchering plants, and he runs an exclusive private brewery.
It's true that he inherited the butchery from his father, but he's
expanded it a great deal."

"A butchery?" Gabriel asked, thinking about Grossberg and the

"Yes. This is much more prestigious in Germany than in America,
believe me. Germany is known for her sausages and meats."

"Oh, I'm not ... no, that's terrific. What about Preiss?"

"Preiss is one of Germany's top trial lawyers. He's charming and

affectionate in person, but he can be absolutely vicious in the
courtroom, I assure you."

Gabriel's green eyes stared, bemused, into von Glower's dark ones.
"Go on."

"Herr Hennemann is a politician. He has a prominent position in

the current government and is an acknowledged contender for higher

"How high?"

Von Glower smiled conspiratorially. "Just between you and I, I

wouldn't be surprised if we had a prime minister in the club in
the near future."

Gabriel whistled. "That would be convenient for his friends,

wouldn't it?"

"All of the men are assets to each other."

"What about Baron von Zell?"

Von Glower's parental look faded. A slight frown creased his brow.
"Von ZelPs family owns the majority of stock in one of Munich's
oldest banks."

"What about his own accomplishments?"

"Garr was—is—a promising young man. He was always top of his

class—the best at everything he did."

"I keep pickin' up a past tense here," Gabriel joked lightly, but
his eyes were watching von Glower intently.

"You haven't seen Garr at his best. He's been going through a dark
period lately, I'm afraid."

"It happens to the best of us," Gabriel said, but it was only a
polite response. Personally, he thought von Zell was a grade-A

Von Glower poured himself another glass of wine and held the glass
up to the light. He sighed deeply. "Ah, Gabriel! How I hope you
will join us. Speaking of the other men like this—it reminds me of
what high hopes I have had for them and how they are , . ."

"I don't know. They are all doing well, but we are none of us as
close as we once were. I miss that." Von Glower shook off an air
of sadness. He smiled. "Are you hungry? I'll have Gunter prepare
us a meal."

"No. No, thank you. I should be goin', actually."

"All right. I'll be at the club this evening. Are you planning to
come by?"

"I thought I would, yeah."

They were rising when Gabriel remembered Grace's letter. There was
no way to slip it in cleverly now. Besides, he didn't really think
it had anything to do with the case. He said, "Oh. By the way,
have you ever heard of the Black Wolf?"

There was a tinkling crash, and Gabriel turned to see that von
Glower, who was now standing, had broken his wineglass. Shards of
crystal and the spill of red wine splashed the coffee table and
the cream of the oriental carpet just below.

"How stupid of me," von Glower said blankly. "I was just putting
it down so I could see you out, and I caught the edge. Gunter!"

Gunter appeared instantly. "Ja, Baron?"

"Wilden Sie das bitte reinigen?" Gunter exited at once.

"Did you get any on you?" von Glower asked. He put a hand on
Gabriel's arm and looked at his clothes with concern.

"No. I'm fine." Gabriel said, pulling away. Gunter returned with a
tray and towel and began to clean up the spill. Gabriel watched
the baron oddly throughout this procedure. Neither one of them
spoke until Gunter left.

"There we are. It's only wine," von Glower said breathlessly. His
face was still flushed. He seemed terribly embarrassed by his own

"Have you?" Gabriel asked. "Ever heard of the Black Wolf?"

"Oh!" von Glower said, as though he had forgotten all about it.
"I'm sorry. You asked me that, didn't you? Perhaps that's why I
missed the table. It must have reminded me of these killings in
the papers. Have you read about them?"


"They've been very upsetting."

"Any particular reason?" Gabriel asked, trying to keep his voice

Von Glower looked surprised. "Any reason? People being slaughtered
. . . children ... in broad daylight. Do you think I am heartless
because of my philosophy? Nature can be cruel, Gabriel, but it is
orderly, it is purposeful. It does not waste or torture—not like

He spoke with punctuated ardor and gave Gabriel with an oddly

pleading look. He was anxious for Gabriel to believe him, but why?
Why did he care what Gabriel thought?

"I'm sure that's true," Gabriel said calmly.

Von Glower took a deep breath. The tenseness in his shoulders

eased. "I'm sorry. I must sound like I'm badgering you. It's just
that I'm afraid the club is not put in the best of light under
these circumstances. Believe me, this is nothing like the nature
we espouse. When a healthy beast kills, it takes only what it
needs to survive and it does so respectfully. It's only man who is
capable of such—such pointless slaughter!"

Gabriel stared at him. "But . . ." he said carefully. "The killer

isn't a man."

Von Glower colored and looked away. "Of course not. But if it is a
beast, it is a very sick beast. It happens sometimes. Even in the

Gabriel barely registered the walk back to the bus stop or the
ride back to the subway line. Even the U-Bahn station, with its
warm, sulfurous blasts of air, did not dislodge his mind from its
mooring. If he'd been confused before, he was positively
bewildered now, wrapped in cords of thought as entangled as a
Gordian knot.

Nothing about his interview with von Glower had gone as expected,
and he was damned if he had the slightest idea what to make of it.

Was von Glower really as innocent as he seemed? Did he even seem

innocent? The business about the philosophy, for instance. To
regain primal instincts and powers. Might something like that not
be taken too far? How far into the mind of predatory man did the
club members go? And what would happen if they couldn't find their
way back out? Then there was that bit with the glass. Von Glower
wasn't exactly the clumsy type. But he seemed thoroughly genuine
in his adamancy against the killings. Besides, the "black wolf"
was some historical thing; it wasn't involved with this case
anyway—so forensics told them; the killer was red. Besides, would
someone who could transform into a wolf hybrid be bragging about
achieving a "slightly keener" sense of hearing? No. In the wake of
red fur and animal bite marks, von Glower looked like an
Gabriel found that he was inclined to believe Friedrich, even that
he wanted to believe him. The club's philosophy wasn't inherently
bad, after all. Gabriel believed in following his instincts, and
that stuff about ESP—he could use that in this line of work. You
couldn't blame the man if someone or something had taken his ideas
a wee bit too far.

Of if something with a healthy carnal appetite had been attracted

to them. Gabriel narrowed his eyes and looked out over the
buildings passing by. Been attracted to them, perhaps even very

He arrived at the club at seven p.m. He was relieved to see that

he was not the first—Preiss had just arrived and was pouring
himself some beer. Gabriel joined him at the bar.

"Good evening, Herr Preiss."

"And to you, Herr Knight." Preiss was blotting the back of his
neck with a handkerchief. His graying sandy hair was wet.

"Did you run into some rain?"

Preiss smiled. "No, I was visiting a friend nearby. Our play got a
bit ... aromatic, shall I say? So I took a quick shower."

The word aromatic was accompanied by a lazy, knowing wink.

"Oh." Gabriel's smile faded. "Huh."

Preiss took his glass of beer and walked over to the fireplace.
Xavier had a pleasantly crackling fire going, and Preiss settled
down in the chair with obvious contentment. But even contented,
the man had the air of a stray dog keeping an eye out for its next

Gabriel poured himself a beer and, with some effort of will,

followed him. The man creeped him out.

"Baron von Glower mentioned that you're a lawyer," he said as he

sat down.

"When I choose to be." Preiss's honeyed tone was the vocal

equivalent of a rose's scent—a siren's call to the bees.

"I'm sorry?"

"I have enough money to work only when I choose, Herr Knight,
which means I only take cases of special interest." The look on
Preiss's face made it clear what he would consider interesting.

"How fortunate. Whaddya do with all your spare time?"

Preiss took a sip of beer. "I entertain."

It was obviously an invitation to a territory that Gabriel did not
want to explore, but to find the swallowed diamond you sometimes
had to poke through a lot of manure.

"Really? And what sort of entertainin' is that?"

One corner of Preiss's mouth tipped upwards sardonically. "Do you

like women, Herr Knight?"

"I've been known to," Gabriel said dryly.

"I adore them," Preiss rumbled. He leaned his head back on the
chair, and his light blue eyes gazed in half-lidded rapture into
Gabriel's own. "All kinds of women, all races-—all beautiful, of
course. I enjoy the hunt—the stalk, the approach, the seduction.
It's a game I never tire of. It's a game I always win."

Gabriel had to make an effort to keep his surge of disgust hidden.

Looking at Preiss was like looking into one of those fun-house
mirrors that makes you larger; Gabriel had had more than his share
of such "hunts," but surely he'd never been as obvious or as
ruthless as this.

"Sounds . . . interestin'," he said.

"And sometimes"—Preiss's eyes widened mockingly—"I vary the game

even further. A true gourmand appreciates all kinds of food, all
sorts of textures."

Gabriel felt his face burning. "I'm more a meat and potatoes man

Preiss laughed out loud. The sound was as lazy and suggestive as
everything else about him. "You're not nearly as stupid as you
like to appear, Herr Knight."

Gabriel sucked in his cheeks and willed his embarrassment away.

"But I'm not sure I believe you," Preiss continued, eyeing him
frankly. "Unless I'm mistaken, you're quite the hedonist."

"You must be gettin' a whiff of the past," Gabriel said bitterly.

As Preiss continued to eye him (Gabriel had the feeling he knew

very well that he was causing discomfort), Gabriel struggled to
turn the tide. He forced a cold smile. "But your ideas intrigue
me. Friedrich was telling me about the club philosophy earlier

Preiss's amusement faded at once. He looked away toward the fire.

"Was he, now? Here?"

"No. At his home in Perlach."

"Ah! How fortunate for you."

"He's a very persuasive speaker."

"He is magnificent."

Gabriel studied Preiss. He was rolling his head on his neck in an

athletic stretching gesture that was the kind of thing people did
to show how relaxed they were when they were just the opposite.
Gabriel wondered what exactly was bugging Preiss, that he'd been
told about the club philosophy? Or that he'd been to the baron's

"So I was wondering what the other members of the club thought of
the philosophy. You, for example, Herr Preiss."

"I?" Preiss shrugged and took a drink. "It works, doesn't it?"

"How so?"

Preiss's blue eyes returned to Gabriel's. "We're all animals. Why

fight it?"

Gabriel hesitated for a moment, wondering if Preiss was serious.

He appeared to be. "Perhaps you and I heard different lectures on
the subject," Gabriel said with a smile.

"No, Herr Knight. The baron doesn't put it quite that way, but
that's the point, isn't it? 'Return to nature,' 'recall our primal
instinct.' In other words, shake off the shackles of repressed
human society and respond only to your gut desires."

Gabriel just watched him, saying nothing.

Preiss leaned forward lasciviously. "Our gut instinct is that of

the unfettered beast, a purely physical, sensory creature."

"In other words . . . don't suppress your urges."

Preiss leaned back and grunted. "That's right. If your body wants
something, it must be natural." A meaningful stare followed.

"Hmmm. What if you get a 'natural urge' to rip someone's throat


Preiss's face clouded with confusion. It was clearly not the

direction he'd anticipated. He responded delicately. "Fortunately,
my own tastes run to pleasures of the equally sticky but less
fatal variety." He smiled once again, pleased with having restated
his point.

"But what if someone's natural instincts are that violent?"

Gabriel pressed. "Shouldn't they suppress those urges?"

"Nature is about sex, Herr Knight. Every living creature has one
primary urge—to reproduce. Not, fortunately, to murder."
"And yet sometimes they do," Gabriel said darkly. "Sometimes they
do murder—even their own kind."

For a moment Preiss said nothing, his slick amusement gone. He

stared out into the room as if thinking of something else. When he
answered it was in a disinterested tone. "I believe nature knows
how to handle that kind of aberration. In the wild, when a member
of the pack turns cannibalistic, it is hunted down and executed.
End of mutant instinct—and its genetic bloodline."

He blinked and smiled, turning back to Gabriel. "But why dwell on

such distasteful things? Surely, that is not your opinion of our
philosophy? Have you no respect for the ways of nature? Believe
me, civilized man is far more violent to his own kind than the
beasts of the woods. And what does man fight about? Religion?
Politics? Ownership? Morality? If we all lived like animals,
there'd be no more war and we'd all be far happier, I assure you."

"Do the other club members share your views?"

"Of course."

"Really? Baron von Zell doesn't seem very happy to me."

Preiss gave a breathy dismissal. "Von Zell is an asshole these

days. Ignore him."

"What's his problem?"

"Who knows? He used to be the baron's favorite. Oh, he was always

arrogant, competitive on the hunts . . . We all are. But he was
pleasant enough, even charming. I know it's hard to believe now."

"So what happened?"

Preiss shook his head, his face betraying his apathy. "I don't
know. Maybe he has personal problems, who cares?"

"You've written him off, then."

"He's an asshole, as I've said."

"And I thought he was just that way to me," Gabriel said with a
wry smile.

Preiss shook his head again; then he seemed to relive something,

for he flushed with anger. "He offends everyone—even the baron
himself! One day I heard them talking. Von Glower was telling von
Zell that he'd acted stupidly about something—which, knowing von
Zell, is not difficult to imagine. Von Zell was furious."

Preiss stopped, fuming but cautious. It was clear he was not

planning to eludicate.

"So ... von Zell insulted him?"

"He called the baron weak, a coward!" Preiss spewed this angrily,
as though it was the ultimate insult. "Bastard! I can't believe
the baron let him get away with it. He should have made him leave
the club that moment! I would have done something myself, but ..."
He paused and swirled his beer. "Well, it was a private

Yeah, and you're scared shitless of von Zell. Gabriel couldn't say
that he blamed Preiss much.

"Did this just happen? Maybe the baron hasn't gotten around to
dumpin' von Zell yet."

"It was a month ago at least."


The two men drank their beers in silence for a while. The
conversation had at least curbed Preiss's leering, which was some
relief. Gabriel tried to sort through the facts in his head.

"It's too bad about von Zell," he mused. "Havin' a friend in

bankin' would have been convenient."

Preiss chuckled bitterly. "If you're talking about borrowing

money, take my advice: keep your head out of that lion's mouth."

"Some of you have already pumped that well, huh? But why would any
of you need money? The baron says you're all models of success."

Preiss rubbed his overly large lips, his eyes sour. "I took less
than some."

"Really? I suppose I can see how Herr Hennemann might have needed
a friend like von Zell. Elections are awfully expensive."

"So are scandals," Preiss said darkly. He looked immediately



Preiss stood up. "Excuse me," he said coldly, and walked away. He
wandered into the front hall, where Gabriel could hear a door open
and voices raised in German greetings.

Gabriel put down his mug and wiped his hands on his jeans. He
could feel a cool sweat coat him as if he'd just gone on a long
run, and his pulse was beating just as rapidly.

God, he'd missed this. It was like walking on the blade of a

razor, or riding his motorcycle on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

He wondered how close he was to the edge.

Von Aigner strolled in. He was ruddy and shining in his massive
black overcoat, as bearded and towering as the ghost of Christmas

"Good evening and good cheer to you, Herr Knight!" He beamed.

"Where's the beer?"

His words echoed through the building, and Hen-nemann, as if being

called by the Pied Piper, hurried in from the front hall, still
extracting himself awkwardly from his raincoat.

"Guten Abend," he nodded to Gabriel as he headed for the bar.

Gabriel went over to join them.

Von Aigner was still pulling beers when Klingmann entered. He was
carrying a briefcase, and he looked terribly nerdy as he paused in
the doorway. He sat his case down carefully to remove his coat and
nodded to the others. "Good evening, gentlemen."

Von Zell entered, bumping into Klingmann and then glaring at him
as though it were his fault. Klingmann hastily moved aside.

"Guten Abend, Baron von Zell," von Aigner called out cheerfully.

"Abend." Von Zell marched to the bar and took the beer von Aigner
offered. He did not look at Gabriel.

"Meine kleine Familiel How are you all this evening?" Von Glower
stood in the doorway in a gray wool cape, his frame impossibly
tall and broad-shouldered in the garment's graceful lines. He
swung it off like Errol Flynn.

"So glad you could join us, Gabriel." Von Glower smiled across the
room as he hung up his cape. His double-breasted black suit and
high-necked white shirt were impeccable and elegant. Gabriel
wondered, should he ever abandon blue jeans, if he could look like
that. He decided it would be too much work.

"Me too," he said.

Von Zell glared at him and went over to sit in front of the

Preiss had reentered behind von Glower and now he hovered, trying
to get the baron's attention.

"Konnte ich Sie fur einen Moment sprechen, Baron?"

"Natiirlich, Preiss. Was ist los?" Von Glower put a hand on

Preiss's shoulder, and the two stepped to one side.

Gabriel observed this worriedly. He'd been perhaps a bit heavy-

handed with Preiss.
"So what have you been up to in Munich, Herr Knight?" von Aigner

"Oh, just hangin' out."

Von Aigner shot Hennemann an amused glance. "I'd be happy to

recommend a nightclub or a few good restaurants. Do you like good
German food?"


"I know the best in town, don't I, Hennemann?"

"Ja." Hennemann nodded affably. "He knows about food, our von

"There's a kellar near the Hauptbahnhof that has the most

delectable Rindfleish."

"Actually, it's kinda difficult to get interested in food with

these killin's in the papers," Gabriel said with a shiver. He took
a sip of beer.

"Ach! Terrible. Just terrible," Hennemann complained.

"Of course it's terrible," von Aigner said, offended. "But what
has that got to do with food? A man has to eat, am I wrong?"

"And just last night there was a fatal attack only a few blocks
from here," Gabriel added. Across the room, he noticed that
Klingmann was still hovering undecidedly near the coat rack. He
seemed to want to approach von Zell but was having a hard time
getting up the nerve to do so.

". . . Herr Knight?"


"I was just saying," Hennemann repeated with carefully

elucidation, as though slurring had been the cause of the
communication backfire, "that I spoke to the governor myself about
the situation, and I told him that we must clear things up, and
right away. The police! What do we pay them for? And I said,
'That's all one can do.' Isn't that right, Herr Knight?"

"All one can do. Hmmm. Let's see. Well, you guys could offer to
hunt the thing down yourselves. Ya'll are supposed to be good at
that, right?"

Von Aigner and Hennemann both looked at him as though he'd gone

"But that's not the sort of thing we do at all!" Hennemann

"Isn't it? Why not?"

Von Aigner was glowering. "Herr Knight, the city is the business
of the police. We hunt in the woods."

"Are you sure?" Gabriel hinted broadly. Von Aigner looked blank.

"Well, it is the duty of the police." Hennemann pouted. "What do

we pay them for?"

"Did you know the latest victim was a local businessman—a

furrier?" Gabriel finished his beer and put the mug down on the
bar with a hardy bang. He pushed it toward von Aigner for a
refill, but von Aigner was just looking at him, his brow pressed
into a frown of uncertainty.

"I hadn't heard that," said Hennemann. "Very strange."

"Yep. Grossberg was the name."

Gabriel was watching von Aigner from the corner of his eye as he
addressed Hennemann. He saw the color drain from the large man's

"I didn't even bother going into the office today!" Hennemann
bitched. "I took one look at the newspaper and knew it would be a
nightmare, and I was right. My secretary called this afternoon in
tears, just in tears! People calling all day long—'what are we
doing about it,' they want to know. I've done everything I could
be expected to do and—"

"More beer, please, von Aigner?" Gabriel asked.

"Was! Oh. Yes."

Von Aigner took the glass and filled it from the tap behind the

Hennemann's narrative trailed off at the sight. "Ich auch, bitte

shoen." He gulped what was in his glass and pushed it forward.

"Did you know Herr Grossberg?" Gabriel asked von Aigner as he

pushed back the full glass and their eyes met.

Von Aigner looked flustered. "Me? No. No. Why do you ask?"

"You look a little upset."

Von Aigner shook his head, as adamant as Peter before the cock
crowed. "I never heard of him."

"Huh. I thought . . . since you're both in the business of

processin' animals."

"I don't know him, Herr Knight!"

"Well, of course you don't. Why should you?" Hennemann said,
deeply confused.

Gabriel and von Aigner looked into each other's eyes for a moment.
Gabriel smiled apologetically. "Didn't mean anythin' by it."
Von Aigner muttered something about it being all right and
finished off his beer. He poured himself another and glanced in
the direction of von Zell anxiously. Gabriel followed his gaze and
watched Klingmann make his approach and sit down across from von
Zell at the fireplace.
Gabriel eyed the situation covetously for a moment, then spotted
the periodicals on the end table near von Zell.

"Excuse me," he said, getting up from the stool. "I have to go

drain the snake."

The expressions of bewilderment on his companion's faces were

priceless. He went into the bathroom in the back hall, where he
took his tape recorder out of his coat pocket and put in a new
tape. He pressed the Record button and slipped the compact device
up his right sleeve.

When he came out, he headed for the fireplace. Klingmann was

speaking in hushed German as Gabriel walked up.

"Yes, Herr Knight?" Von Zell signaled Klingmann to pause with an

upraised hand.

"Just wanted to grab a magazine."

Von Zell glared at him, waiting for him to complete said task and
get the hell away.

Gabriel leafed through the stack of magazines as though looking

for an appealing cover. He waited until the two men got bored
enough to stop watching him. Then he let the tape recorder slip
from his sleeve and onto the table behind the stack of magazines,
a side that conveniently faced the wall.

"Got one. Thanks."

Gabriel took the magazine back over to the bar. He noted that von
Glower and Preiss were still talking quietly. Von Glower spied him
over Preiss's head and smiled at him. Gabriel nodded back.

"Ja, ich habe meine Nachmittagstermine abgesagt. Wir treffen uns

hier urn vier Uhr?" Von Aigner was saying to Hennemann.

"Soviet ich weifi."

"Hey." Gabriel put the magazine down on the bar. "Whatcha talkin'
"Our monthly hunting trip," von Aigner said. "We're going to our
lodge in Eppenberg tomorrow. It's in the Bavarian National Forest.
Will you be joining us?"

"Urn, I don't know." The idea was both unexpected and unpleasant,
especially since he'd never actually gone game hunting in his
life. "I don't think so. I need to have my gun cleaned."

"There are plenty of guns at the lodge," von Aigner offered


"Herr von Aigner," Hennemann urged circumspectly, "perhaps the

baron didn't mean for Herr Knight to join us quite so soon."

Von Aigner shrugged. "Oh, hell. Let's ask him. Baron von Glower?"
He called across the room, and the dark head swiveled towards

"Yes, von Aigner?"

"The trip tomorrow. Will our new American friend be joining us?"

Von Glower opened his mouth to speak, but someone got there first.
Von Zell interjected bitterly from across the room.

"Of course not! He's not a club member!" Von Zell rose and took
several steps toward von Glower. He paused there, in mid room,
fists knotted at his side.

Von Glower turned toward him calmly. "He's my guest."

"I doubt he has even a hunting license!" Von Zell turned to

Gabriel. "Do you? Do you have a permit from the landratsamtl"

Gabriel looked back at him and blinked slowly. He was really

starting to hate this guy. "Darn. I knew I'd forgotten somethin',"
he said dryly.

"See? He cannot go!"

"Nonsense, Garr," von Glower said smoothly. "The sooner we get to

see his technique the better. He can register when we get back."

"But that's not legal!" von Zell sputtered.

Von Aigner guffawed. "Since when do you care about what is legal?
It's only a hunting license, for God's sake."

"Von Aigner's right," von Glower said in a firm but even tone. "No
one will disturb us in Eppenberg, and I would enjoy Gabriel's
presence very much."

"Well, we certainly wouldn't want to deny the baron anything he

would enjoy!" von Zell spat out sarcastically. The room was silent
as von Glower blinked lazily at the younger man, then looked back
at Preiss as if dismissing him. Von Zell's eyes were large and
glittering like two blue jewels. He glared at Gabriel as if it
were all his fault. And then he must have seen something revealing
on the American's face, for he suddenly smiled—a mocking, tight

"Yes. I suppose it might be an interesting exercise at that."

The threat in the words was evident. He was to be outdone if not

undone on the hunt. Gabriel's discomfort deepened, his skin
telling the tale. This appeared to satisfy von Zell immensely, for
his smirk broadened and he went back to his seat.

"Our lodge in Eppenberg is privately owned," von Aigner explained.

"We have forty acres. We're rarely disturbed." He made an effort
to sound pleasant.

"Does Klingmann have a license yet?" Gabriel asked. "He's new too,
isn't he?"

"He asked me about it weeks ago," Hennemann said. "I am certain he

filed for one. Whether or not it has come back, I couldn't say."

Someone brushed Gabriel's elbow. It was Klingmann himself. He

mumbled an apology and asked von Aigner for a beer.

"Have you got your hunting license, Herr Doktor?" Hennemann asked.

"Ja. Last week it came in the mail."

As soon as von Aigner delivered Klingmann's beer, he excused

himself. He had a pensive look on his face as he went over and
bowed curtly to von Zell. Von Zell waved him into the chair
Klingmann had just occupied.

"Does von Zell always hold court like this?" Gabriel asked,
nodding his head toward the banker.

Klingmann followed his gaze and frowned. He said nothing.

Hennemann shrugged. "I can't imagine."

Preiss and von Glower broke off and headed over.

"I'm sorry to have abandoned you, Gabriel," von Glower said. "Are
you enjoying yourself?"

"Oh. Hey. Sure."

Von Glower smiled at the implicit sarcasm. "I'm glad you are
coming with us on the trip. I was going to invite you myself."

"That's kind of you. I have to tell you, though, it's been a

couple of years . . ."
Hennemann served the baron a beer.

"You'll be excellent, my friend. If you like we can go over the

general layout of the weekend later tonight. We usually disperse
here by ten on weeknights, and I'm quite the night owl. Would you
join me for a late supper?"


"At my home. I have an excellent French cook."

The others at the bar were listening, though pretending not to.
They all looked down at the bar or their drinks with great intent.

Gabriel hesitated. He ought to say no. He was on a case, after

all, and he should review his tapes tonight, burn some little gray
cells. Besides which, he really couldn't afford to get too
personal with any of these men, not until the case was over. But
the idea of going back to the cold, tragic heart of the Huber farm
could not hold a candle to the warmth and luxury of von Glower's
living room, a home-cooked meal, even the effortless charm of the
man himself.

"I'd love to, thanks," he found himself saying.

Von Glower smiled broadly and tilted his head in a courtly bow.

The pleasant moment was not to last.

"Was?" Von Zell's voice boomed through the room. Gabriel felt his
stomach clench up again. He turned to see von Zell rise from his
conversation with von Aigner and storm toward him. Von Aigner
peered around the large arm of his chair—he looked frightened
behind his great dark beard.

Von Zell marched directly to Gabriel and pointed a shaking finger

at him. "I demand to know what you are doing at this club!"

"Garr!" von Glower said, shocked.

Von Zell was shouting. "Did you know this 'guest' of yours has
been sniffing around the club? I found him in the basement myself
earlier today. And he is asking everyone questions! He must be a
reporter, or the police!"

Gabriel felt the ground dip away beneath him. He darted a glance
toward the front hall, but he was a good long dash from that exit,
and von Zell was in the way. He'd have an easier time, he decided
quickly, to make a run for the back exit and the alley.

At the bar, Preiss was leaning against the service counter with
his arms folded. He watched the scene with half-lidded eyes.
Klingmann stared into his beer, and von Aigner had disappeared
into the chair. Only Hennemann looked confused.
Von Glower put his beer down and turned to face von Zell squarely.
His hands were relaxed at his sides, but his eyes were livid.

"And what, exactly, do we have to fear from a reporter or the

police?" Von Glower's words were spoken low, soft velvet-covered

Von Zell's expression of triumphant rage faltered a bit. He looked

from Gabriel to von Glower and back again. "You . . . you don't
care that he's prying into our private business? Sniffing around
the club? Our practices? What possible motive could he have?"

"Garr!" von Glower interrupted sharply. "Gabriel is my guest. Of

course he's curious about the club. You're the one who's turning
this into an inquisition!"

Von Zell's face registered pure incredulity and incomprehension.

He stared at von Glower as though he couldn't be serious. "You
don't care," he said, almost to himself.

"Why should I? He's welcome to know anything he wishes to know

about this club. I have nothing to hide." Von Glower turned his
shoulder ever so slightly away from von Zell. It was a small
gesture, but it said quite clearly that the conversation was over.

Von Zell blinked rapidly, his jaw working. "Then . . . then it is

on your head!" he spat, almost in tears of rage and frustration.
He turned on his heel and stormed from the room. The bang of the
front hall door echoed loudly with his passing.

Gabriel turned to find Preiss's eyes upon him. Preiss stared, as

expressionless as a shark. Gabriel turned away uneasily. His hands
were shaking. He put down his glass.

"I'm sorry you had to put up with that," von Glower said, his
voice still angry. "It's unforgivable."

"No, um, I should have ... I do ask too many questions."

"Nonsense. What else is a good mind for?"

"But it's been upsetting people. I'm not exactly helpin' the
harmony around here."

Von Glower uttered a bitter laugh. "The harmony was shattered a

long time ago. Garr gets .. . territorial. I'm tired of it,

But Gabriel's heart was still hammering. His ears were hot and he
knew they were bright red. God! His fair complexion really sucked
in this line of work.

"I should get goin' anyway. I'd like to clean up before tonight.
That is, if . . ."
"Of course!" Von Glower smiled reassuringly. "Don't fret about
Garr. He won't be with us for long."

Gabriel gave von Glower a bewildered look but said nothing.

"I'll be home in about an hour. I'll see you then?"

"All right, Friedrich," Gabriel said numbly. He backed away and

waved a hand toward the bar. "Good night, everyone."

The men at the bar responded to Gabriel's valedictory pleasantly

enough, but it was clear they were all unnerved. That von Zell had
lost favor, they'd known for some time. But how far from grace
he'd fallen and who might replace him, those were different
matters entirely.

They watched Gabriel leave with grim, invidious eyes.

The machine pulled into the driveway of the Huber farm. It was a
dull, strange-smelling, cold gray blob. It did not appeal to the
thing in the woods, but the thing knew that what would get out of
the cold blob would—would appeal very, very much.

It licked its snout anxiously and permitted itself an impatient

whine because the human had not yet emerged and wouldn't hear,
couldn't hear, not from this distance. Humans were such pitiful,
hapless, stupid creatures.

The human emerged from the machine. Its footsteps crunched loudly
on the gravel, and it was making a strange sound, one that the
thing in the woods could have identified as whistling if it had
concentrated, but it chose not to. The sound was not important; it
was just something that humans did. What was important was that
the human was crossing the driveway and heading for the door.

The thing's hind legs danced in anxious delirium, then tensed

down, prepared to bolt from its cover at the edge of the woods. It

The human found its present. The man stumbled upon it in the dark,
exactly as the thing had known it would. Its breath quickened into
a pant of need as it watched the human stop and look down, bend
over to see.

It began to creep forward on stealthy paws.

Yes, the human was examining its prize now, a gift from Death, the
neighbor's cat with its entrails strewn across the lawn. The thing
could see the human's bright yellow glow shift into a darker tone
with disgust and a little fear too. Soon, oh soon, that same light
would be awash in the primal red of terror—like ethereal blood
staining the aura.
The human looked around, but didn't see the thing approaching in
the dark, dark, dark. Oh, the man was so close now and he didn't
see what stalked him in the dark! He couldn't even smell Death
coming! The cat had been smarter! The thing pulled its lips back
from its teeth, baring them for the delicious moment to come.
Pleasure and excitement made it quiver.

The human bent over farther, picked at something in the grass. At

that moment—the moment the thing was about to leap—something
blinding swung free of the human's covering, something that seared
the thing's brain with a light like fire.

The thing from the woods whimpered a cry of pain and began to back

The object—the blinding light—swung freely in the air, back and

forth, hanging from the human's neck. It sent its torturous rays
out to seek and pierce. The human looked up and tensed. Its aura
blushed darker with fear.

But the thing was beyond enjoying or even caring about such
things. The pain was excruciating. It was unbearable. It turned
and fled back into the safety of the woods. When it had gotten far
enough from the light for the pain to stop, it turned and peered
back at the human through the trees.

The man stood up, looking at the woods now. It began backing
toward the house, its aura and its body language a hideous
enticement of fear, an invitation that could not be acted upon.
The human spent some time fumbling at the door, then disappeared

The thing in the woods lifted its head and howled its frustration
and rage at the moon.

Chapter 4
The cold, companionless silence of the castle had wrapped around
Grace like a bitter blanket all evening, seeping into her heart
and numbing her spirits. So it was no surprise that when sleep
finally came it was a bitter sleep, with dreams as icy and sterile
as the walls of the castle itself.

She dreamed of snow.

She was in a fir- and oak-strewn forest, and it was laden with
arctic glitter in icy white crystals and rolling pearly beds. The
forest was absolutely still; not even her footsteps made any
sound. She seemed to be floating, or perhaps just walking, like a
North Pole messiah, across the top of the downy drifts.

She wandered in this alien landscape for some time. The silence
and the snow became oppressive, as if the frosty hand of Death
itself was gathering around her for a good hard squeeze. She was
cold, but despite the fact that she was wearing only a nightdress
in her dream, the cold seemed to be coming from inside her, as if
the scene was injecting the chill directly into her bones.

She moved about that silent, piney citadel looking for a way out—a
cabin, perhaps, or a road. And after a while she realized she was
being followed.

By wolves.

She didn't hear them—nothing broke the stillness of the woods. She
happened upon her own footprints, a record of her confusion, and
later she happened upon them again. The third time this happened,
her mind (perhaps simply bored with the repetition) supplied
something new—a set of footprints curving out of the trees to join
her own. The tracks looked a little like dog tracks to her
inexpert eyes, but they were large. Huge even. When she realized
what they were, terror raced through her blood in an icy rush. She
choked back a scream, afraid they would hear it and beset her. She
began to run.

Now the dream changed entirely. Now it was a nightmare pure and
unadulterated. She was running, running through the snow and the
woods, and behind her were wolves, a pack of wolves, and yes, she
could see them now, in flashes, when she looked behind. Three
wolves, four, five, maybe more. They wove in and out of trees,
fanning out and circling her—tireless hunters functioning with
eager efficiency. She ran and they closed in. They grew so close
she could feel the wet spittle of the snow kicked up by their
churning paws.

She broke through the trees and found herself at the top of a
snowy embankment. Below, an open field stretched into the horizon.
She half tumbled, half ran down the bank, spilling into the
valley, and now when she looked behind, her hunters were clearly
visible, no longer glimpses of fur and fang from behind the trees.
They sped toward her. She realized, fully, that she had only made
their job easier.

Then something intruded upon the silence and the white like a
trumpeted reprieve. It was the sound of bells, of something heavy
moving across the snow. She turned from her pursuers and saw,
miraculously, that a sleigh was up ahead and was speeding toward
her down the valley. A sleigh!

And what a sleigh. It was like the drawings of Cinderella's coach

she'd seen in picture books as a child. A team of four horses drew
it, and their trappings and the sleigh itself were gilded and
carved and bedecked with cherubs like some baroque gravy bowl
enlarged and set on runners. The driver whipped the horses, swung
toward her.

She cried out to the sleigh driver, an entreaty.

And then the sleigh was there. It didn't slow, she was simply able
to grab the hand that reached down from the passenger seat and was
swept upward with one strong pull. She landed on a velvet seat and
stared up into the face of the man who had rescued her. He was a
brilliant figure, more alarming and surreal than the sleigh
itself. He was tall, with glittering black hair and mustache,
crystal blue eyes and the palest skin. A heavy fur blanket covered
him from the waist down and a thick black wool coat with ribbons
emphasized the broadness of his shoulders, gave him an imperial

Grace recognized him from the picture she'd seen in the gasthof.
It was King Ludwig II. She studied his face with amazement and
wonder, struck and quickened by his beauty, by his iridescent blue
eyes. Then he turned to look out the back of the sleigh, and she
reluctantly tore her eyes from his face and followed his gaze. The
wolves raced on, but they were already far away and falling back
steadily, like snowflakes drifting across the surface of the icy

She was suffused with relief and gratitude and something else—a
sense of anticipation and girlish awe about the man who sat next
to her.

She turned to face him once more, her skin warm and blushing.

But the man who'd sat next to her had disappeared. In the seat
beside her now was a huge silvery wolf. It bared its teeth.

Grace woke up screaming in the blackness of the Ritter bedroom.

No one came.

She had just come downstairs when the phone rang. Gerde was
nowhere to be seen, so Grace answered it.

It was Frau Holstedder at the post office. There was a letter

waiting from Herr Knight. Frau Holstedder sounded almost as
excited as Grace.

She reached the town square in five minutes and (to the
disappointment of Frau Holstedder) took the letter over to a bench
in the town square to read.

You decided to come over. Great. Guten tag and all that. I'm sure you and
Gerde are hitting it off.
Thanks for finding the werewolf book and journals. They might come in
handy. About Ludwig II—you know, I think you might have something there.
Harry says there are two places you should check out. Ludwig had a castle
called "New Swan" something or other, and there's a museum about him
at... Herren-chiemsee (Harry helped me spell that). I really think you
should look into it.

As for me, never fear. Things are going smoothly. The case is being
handled by a Kommissar Leber, and I've finally gotten the okay to go see
him. My main suspect, a Doktor Klingmann (from the zoo), belongs to a
hunt club run by a man named von Glower, and I think I've managed to get
myself in there too. Whether it leads to actually learning anything is
another matter.


Grace lowered the letter and checked the envelope. There was
nothing on it except the address of the lawyer—Ubergrau. No phone
number or hotel. She frowned.

And nothing about the Black Wolf either, not even a response to
her warning. There was just this suspiciously eager encouragement
about Ludwig II. Did Gabriel really think it was relevant to the

She thought about it, her cheeks hollowing vexedly. Probably not,
not really.

The things was, she was pretty sure he was wrong.

* * *

The Smiths were just being served their breakfast when Grace
entered the gasthof. She approached their table leerily.

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith? I'm Grace Nakimura from the castle."

"Yes, I know. How are you, dear?" Mrs. Smith was pleasant enough,
but there was a restrained air about her.

"Miss Nakimura," Mr. Smith said. He stood up.

"Sit down, please. I just wanted to apologize for the other night,
and for not coming by earlier. I suppose I was a bit thrown by
what you said."

Mrs. Smith's round face spread into a generous smile. "You're

forgiven, dear! Why don't you join us?"

"All right."

Werner brought her fruhstuck, and it was as good as she remembered

it. Although the table manners of her companions left something to
be desired, they were a welcome change from the silent reproach of
Gerde. While they ate they chatted about the kinds of things
Americans in Germany chat about—the weather, the quaintness of the
villages, the sturdy me-ticulousness of the natives. Mrs. Smith
was much sav-vier this time around. She did not breathe a word of
the occult. Grace finally brought it up herself when Werner at
last disappeared with their empty plates.

"At the castle you said something about the Black Wolf?"

"So Emil tells me."

"Where did you get that name? What did you mean?"

Mrs. Smith smiled regretfully. "I don't know, sugar pie. When
these things come, I'm just like a telephone. I don't know who the
message was from or what it meant. I've never heard of the Black
Wolf myself. Have you?"

"Yes," Grace said after a moment's hesitation.

There was a heavy pause, but Grace said nothing more.

"Well!" Mrs. Smith sniffed. "The important thing is to answer

exactly the questions you raised. Who was the sender and what did
they mean for us to do?"

"But how can we answer those questions if you don't know?"

"I don't know now, but if we put our energies together and ask for
the answers we may learn something."

Grace studied Mrs. Smith, confused. "You're not... you don't mean
a seance, do you?"

"Of course not!" Mr. Smith interjected with a chuckle.

"Good, because I—"

"I'm much better at tarot cards," Mrs. Smith said cheerfully. She
reached down to retrieve her enormous vinyl purse and rooted
around in it until she pulled out a deck of cards.

"Tarot cards?"

"Just think of it as a language, dear. The spirits can't speak to

us directly—not usually anyway—but through symbols they can get
their point across."

Mrs. Smith merged the cards with an expert hand, rapped them on
the table, separated and rejoined them. Satisfied, she clasped
them between both hands, nearly hiding them from sight, and
brought her hands to her bosom. She closed her eyes and prayed
over them silently.

"There! Now, who shall we do the reading for: you or your

"Um, I thought the idea was to learn about the Black Wolf?"

"Of course, but he's relevant to one of you—maybe both. I can't

very well do a reading on the Black Wolf—I don't even know who or
what he or it is."

There was a hurt tone carefully applied to that last remark.

"Hmmm . . ." Grace frowned skeptically. "Mine, I guess. I'm the

one that got the message."

"Good!" Mrs. Smith held the deck out to Grace. "Now, I want you to
take these cards and push your energies into them with all of your

Grace, feeling more than a little silly, did as asked.

Fortunately, Werner was still back in the kitchen and was not on
hand to watch this bizarre ritual. Grace handed the cards back.
She was real close to deciding that she'd been right about the
Smiths after all—they were kooks. Mrs. Smith might have an open
channel somewhere, but the rest of her wiring was a mess. She
glanced at her watch.

"We begin," said Mrs. Smith, "praise Jesus."

She very deliberately laid out four cards in a row, turning each
over slowly and studying the faces with interest.

"Well? What's it say?" Grace asked, curious despite herself.

Mrs. Smith pointed at the first card on the left. "This is your
soul card. It applies to all of your lifetimes. You've drawn the
Empress, dear!"

"The Empress?"

"It means your soul's path is one of leadership—a kind of maternal

or Amazonian leadership, if you prefer. It also means that your
soul is essentially feminine. We incarnate in the opposite sex
sometimes, you know, just to round out our natures. But you're
definitely a woman at heart."

"That's a relief," Grace said dryly.

"This second card represents you in this lifetime. It's the

Chariot. It represents self-discipline and control—victory over
instincts and desires. You put on a mask of detachment to hide
your emotional nature. The Chariot is very masculine—ambition,
dominance. You will seek out great achievement, but you will pay a

"This doesn't sound anything like me," Grace pointed out.

"Yes, dear," Mrs. Smith soothed, patting her hand. "The third card
represents the Other. You've drawn the Magician."
Mrs. Smith looked up at Grace slyly. "Who is he, dear?"

"I'm sorry?"

"The Magician, your Other! Oh, this is a very powerful card—major


Grace glanced at Mr. Smith but didn't see anything there to

illuminate her. "You're whizzing right by me with this Other
business," she said.

Mrs. Smith shook her head, making her extra chins jiggle.
"Everyone has an Other! It's the soul who is most interwoven with
your own at this moment. Sometimes it's someone you've been linked
to in other lifetimes as well. It's the Schattenjager, isn't it?
What's his name, dear?"

Grace put on a "this is stupid" face, but her heart thudded

painfully in her chest. "The Schattenjager^ Gabriel Knight."

"Gabriel Knight! A name of power! And he is powerful, this one!"

Mrs. Smith's face glowed and she pinned down the Magician card
with one chubby finger. The card itself showed a robed man
standing before an altar-shaped rock, one hand thrusting forward a
wand. Grace looked at it distrustfully.

"The Magician is dexterous and cunning, mischievous and

manipulating," Mrs. Smith said.

"That's Gabriel, all right," Grace quipped.

"And very strong with magical and occult powers. How interesting!
Your chariot is all logic and reasoning while his Magician is
spiritual and intuitive. Those are feminine qualities really."

Grace snorted. "Gabriel's about as feminine as a jock strap."

Mrs. Smith smiled patronizingly. "Yes, dear."

She unpinned the Magician and moved to the fourth card. "This last
card shows us what you're trying to achieve at this moment. It's
the Strength or Trial card."

Grace gave Mrs. Smith a confused look.

"A trial—a test, dear. The card represents finding the strength to
continue some difficult task. It also represents the integration
of conflicting energies to create some kind of explosive force—I
wonder if that's your Chariot and his Magician energies."

Grace looked highly doubtful.

"What is the trial, do you know?" Mrs. Smith asked.

Grace shifted uncomfortably. "Urn, we are on a case right now."

Mrs. Smith clasped her hands to her chest dramatically. "A

Schattenjnger case? I knew it! What's it about?"

Grace began to speak, then thought better of it. "I'd ... I'd
rather not say."

Mrs. Smith smiled pityingly. "As you wish. But the case will be
difficult. You must let your love give you power—use the positive
energy of your union or you may not succeed."

"Look, Gabriel and I are just friends," Grace said impatiently.

"There is no ... like . . . union."

Mrs. Smith exchanged a knowing glance with Mr. Smith, then said
gently, "If I might suggest . . . This isn't the best of times for
defenses, punkin'. When you face evil, positive emanations like
love are powerful weapons."

"I'll try to remember that if I run across any," Grace said with a

"I hope so, dear." Mrs. Smith gathered up the cards. "Now, shall
we do one for your Schattenjager as well?"

Grace glanced at her watch again. "I don't think so. My reading
didn't tell us anything about the Black Wolf, and I don't have
much time."

She hadn't meant it as a reproach; it just came out that way.

"The spirit world works at its own pace and in its own ways," Mr.
Smith said with a hint of censure.

Mrs. Smith patted his hand reassuringly. "Emil is right. I can't

guarantee that Gabriel's reading will give us the answers we're
looking for, but the message was a warning for him, wasn't it?"
She looked at her husband. "Didn't I say, 'Tell him, beware the
Black Wolf?"

"That's right, Mother," Mr. Smith said. Grace sank back with a
sigh into her chair.

After shuffling the cards again and having Grace think about
Gabriel over them (this was even stupider than last time), Mrs.
Smith laid out another line of four.

"Yes! His soul card is the Magician!" Mrs. Smith said as she
turned it over. "You see, dear? It matches your Other exactly!"

Grace wondered how quick of hand Mrs. Smith was with those cards,
but she smiled politely.

"And his lifetime card ... Oh. The Lovers."

Grace snorted. "If that means what I think it means, you're
starting to convince me. His bio does read like a porno version of
Lewis and Clark."

"It's not a sexual card," Mrs. Smith said worriedly. "It's a

duality card. The Lovers represent opposites— male versus female,
but also good versus evil, altruism versus selfishness, hedonism
versus saintliness. It tells me that Gabriel is someone with two
very distinct faces and two conflicting sets of impulses."

Grace brought her thumbnail to her mouth worriedly.

"Gabriel's challenge in this lifetime is to integrate the

conflicting sides of himself. Until he does, he will be a very
troubled soul." Mrs. Smith shook her head sympathetically.

Grace said nothing.

"And you will find peace," Mrs. Smith said, reaching out to rescue
Grace's hand from being munched, "when you learn to love the worst
of him as well as you already love the best. When you can admit
that the things that draw you about him and the things that repel
you are all a part of the same man."

Grace pulled back her hand. "I told you, we're just friends!"

"Mother," Mr. Smith warned.

Mrs. Smith made an I-call-'em-as-I-see-'em face. She moved to the

second card. "His Other is the High Priestess."

"I suppose that's me," Grace said cynically.

"No, dear, it's not. The priestess represents psychic mysteries,

deep wisdom, spiritual powers. No, this is a very different energy
than that of your own earthy Empress."

Grace felt an unwelcome flash of jealousy and pictured the elegant

Gerde, but Mrs. Smith was lost in her own ideas and didn't notice
her discomfort. "The Other card can change from time to time,
depending on the situation. I wonder if this is our connection to
the voice? Perhaps the High Priestess represents the force that's
trying to contact Gabriel right now."

"That's not much help," Grace said impatiently. "What about the
Black Wolf?"

"But it is a help. The High Priestess is a spirit guide card if

ever there was one! At least it tells us the voice is benevolent.
Someone or some force—the High Priestess—is trying to warn

Grace huffed. "But ... if Gabriel's this Magician and if he's so

very psychic or whatever, why did this spirit guide talk to me?"
Mrs. Smith shrugged helplessly. "I don't know, sweetie. Perhaps
Gabriel's blocked right now. And there is this duality business—
perhaps Gabriel's blocking himself. Let me go on and see if things
clear up."

Mrs. Smith laid down a new card, the fifth. Grace took one look at
it and gave a bitter laugh. "Ha! Death! No worries, then."

"Now, you leave the card reading to me!" Mrs. Smith admonished.
"The Death card is a trans formation card. It doesn't usually mean
physical death; it implies some kind of shift from one thing to
another. The transition may be painful, but the new state isn't
necessarily bad. I'm going on."

She laid out a sixth card. Grace sat forward to peer at it.

"Two of wands," said Mrs. Smith in a flat voice.

"Yeah? So?"

Mrs. Smith chewed her salmon pink lips. "Hmmm. Wands is Mars in
Aries; that's a war card. And the two ... I would say, in
conjunction with the Death card, that there are two possible

Mr. Smith put his arm around the back of the bench and placed a
firm hand on Mrs. Smith's shoulder. Grace did not mistake the
gesture or its meaning. Mrs. Smith was turning a little peaked.

"What kind of transformations?"

Mrs. Smith began shaking her head to and fro in a jittery gesture.
"It's a ... I think it's a spiritual battle. He's confronting a
very real challenge about his duality, perhaps one of many he will
face, or perhaps the battle of his lifetime. As for a result—he
could go ... either way."

"Either way what!" Grace asked, caught between feeling exasperated

and frightened.

"Mother . . ." Mr. Smith said softly.

"We're talking about a transformation." Mrs. Smith's voice was

trembling audibly now. "Either he'll come out of this pushed more
toward his good side or more toward his bad. It will not be a
little push, either, it'll—it'll be a big push. The spirit guide
has been sent, after all, to help him . . . help him choose."

Grace said nothing, watching Mrs. Smith with growing concern.

"Gabriel has inherent gifts, p—p—-powers." Mrs. Smith was no

longer even looking at Grace now but staring past her. "There is
something he must d—d— do. If he goes wrong, it will be not a
small hole. Not small."
Something in Mrs. Smith's face made all of this very real and very
frightening, despite the bizarreness of the words themselves. So
much New Age fluff and stuffing, so Grace would have thought, but
Mrs. Smith's hands were shaking in a palsied manner and she seemed
unable to put down the cards. She fell silent, her eyes fixed on
the wall behind Grace's head. A fine sheen had appeared on her
upper lip and cheeks.

Mr. Smith took the cards gently from his wife's hands and pushed
them as far away from her as he could. He put both of his arms
around her and held her tightly, his face grim.

"You'd better go now, miss. Come back later."

Grace nodded and stood reluctantly. She paused.

"She'll be all right," Mr. Smith said a bit sharply. "Just go."

The episode in the gasthof made Grace feel a bit guilty about
leaving town. What exactly had happened? Had something been trying
to prevent Mrs. Smith from speaking? Was it some kind of epileptic
condition? Or was she putting on an act? Whatever it was, Mr.
Smith would look after his wife, and Grace herself had still
learned nothing about the Black Wolf. If Ludwig II knew the Black
Wolf, as Christian Ritter implied, there might be a mention of him
somewhere in some official archive or another. It was worth a
look, despite Gabriel's obvious skepticism.

Besides, the truth was that she was more than a little interested
in seeing the castles herself, particularly after her dream. She
bought a southern Bavaria map at the grocery store and set out in
her rental car. And as she drove the hour and a half to Neusch-
wanstein, Grace thought about what she'd learned the day before.

Ludwig II of Bavaria. That she had dreamed of the king and of

wolves was no mystery—she'd gone to bed with her brain full of the
stuff. Still, now that the terror of it was safely behind her, she
recalled the dream with some interest. What emotional intensity it
had evoked! She could still remember how compelled she was by the
look in his eyes, the awe and desire she had felt in his presence.

The man in her dreams did not look like the king— or, rather, he
looked like the pictures she'd seen of him in his early thirties.
Werner was quite a fan, and yesterday he'd taken her on a tour of
his Ludwig memorabilia—several pictures in the gasthof proper and
more back in his living quarters. He'd given her a brief and
obviously slanted summary of the king's life, but it was heartfelt
for all that

Ludwig had been eighteen when crowned. His father had died
unexpectedly, leaving the young heir little choice. The pictures
from this time were of a very tall, still gawky boy. His black,
naturally curly hair formed baby-doll ringlets around his thin,
pale face. Enormous, black-lashed blue eyes stared out at the
viewer, and the colorful, tight-fitting militia-style costumes he
preferred finished off the romanticism with a flourish.

No wonder the entire country had fallen in love with him—called

him the fairy tale king. No wonder Bavarians had not forgotten him
even to this day. Werner had made that abundantly clear.

And there were other official portraits, portraits of a handsome

man coming into his prime. In his late twenties Ludwig began
sporting a mustache and goatee. In his late thirties, his hair was
still thick and wavy and his bearing regal. His figure had
gradually thickened to a staunch, solid paternalism.

But he had never been a father, or even married, or so Werner

admitted briefly when she'd probed. He had built castles instead,
and had died at the age of forty-one. Howl, Grace had asked. They
drowned him in a lake, Werner'd confided. When probed who "they"
were, he gave her one of his knowing looks.

Naturally, the historian in her was aroused. She'd even phoned her
old Yale professor, Barclay, to see if he knew the name of a local
Ludwig scholar. He'd promised to get back to her.

And today there were the castles. The road to Neuschwanstein

roamed through countryside and farmland that was green and
rolling. White Bavarian farmhouses with window boxes full of early
spring daffodils dotted the landscape. The day was cold and rainy,
but it was thrilling nonetheless to be in such a beautiful and
foreign place, to wander the back roads of southern Germany for
the first time in her life.

Then she rounded a bend and saw the castle. It took her breath
away, floating above the green valley below like a vision of the
Second Coming—a magnificent palace in white stone resplendent with
towers and turrets, shining against the backdrop of the purple-
blue mountains beyond.


She bought her ticket and rented an English audio tour headset.
The gift shop was crammed with mugs and T-shirts and posters and
steins, all with the image of the castle or Ludwig on them. There
were books too, in several languages. She promised herself she'd
be back and forged ahead into the castle itself.

She walked through the rooms slowly, marveling at the evident

expense. Every wall was covered with hand-carved wood in a shining
light cherry. Painted murals filled the upper six feet of the
walls before coffered and carved ceilings capped the expanse. The
furnishings were just as elaborate. The bed was a baroque carved
masterpiece, like some altarpiece for a grand cathedral, covered
with blue and gold hand-embroidered coverlets. The tour tape
Ludwig was obsessed with building castles throughout his adult life.
Neuschwanstein, his third and greatest, was built between 1869 and
1886. Another obsession was mythology, a taste he shared with the
composer Richard Wagner. Ludwig adored Wagner's operas, and
Neuschwanstein is filled with images from them. The en-tryway
panels are from the Siegfried saga. The bedroom murals depict
scenes from the tragic love story, Tristan and Isolde.

There were few visitors on this rainy March weekday, and Grace
paused at her leisure, taking in everything with wide eyes and
filing it away as best she could. It was odd, but she could feel a
sense of Ludwig here, a feeling not unlike the one he'd evoked in
her dream, but colder and more aloof. Something about the
excessiveness of the bedroom bespoke a soul who loved beauty but
who was also out of control. The tape concurred.

It took fourteen woodcarvers four and a half years to create the

bedroom. It was precisely this kind of extravagance that
bankrupted the king. In the years before his death, he found it
increasingly difficult to find money from any source. That is why
this castle was never fully completed and plans for a beloved
fourth castle, Falkenstein, were never begun.

There was a doorway at the far end of the room with red rope
draped across it. From the entrance one could look into a small
chapel, no larger than a walk-in closet. A stained-glass window
let in colored light through images of a black-haired monarch in
angelic garb. On the altar was a shining gold cross and an image
of the Madonna and child, both with black skin.

The king was a devout Catholic, as were all of the Wittelsbach

rulers. They kept Bavaria true to the Holy Roman Church even
during the worse rampages of the Protestant wars. The Madonna
figure here is a representation of the Black Madonna of AltOtting,
a favorite pilgrimage site of the Bavarian monarchy.

The figure on the window is St. Louis, Louis IX of France. Ludwig

was fascinated by the French monarchy, which he admired for its
absolute authority and aristocratic rule. Besides Louis IX, whom
he admired for his saintly qualities, Ludwig also adored Louis
XIV, the Sun King, who is featured at his castle in
Herrenchiemsee. The king's fickle obsession with these figures was
legendary. For a period of about a year the king had all Louis
images covered up with black cloth. No historian has ever
satisfactorily explained why.

Grace sighed, her mind troubled by the picture that was forming.
She moved on.
This is the king's living room. The tapestries and murals in this
room depict scenes from the Lohengrin story. Note the swan images
on the ceiling and on the fabrics throughout the room. Lohengrin
was the first Wagner opera the king ever saw. He was only sixteen
when he attended a performance in the Residence Theater in Munich,
and it so affected him that he considered it a form of

Perhaps because of his early connection to Lohengrin, the swan

became a favorite motif of the king's. To him the swan represented
majesty and purity—the qualities of the Knights of the Grail with
whom Lud-wig identified.

Of course, the tragedy of Lohengrin was his essential loneliness.

This, too, was the fate of the king.

Grace walked the large room carefully. It was indeed filled with
swan images—in the woodwork, in the decorative embellishments on
the walls, even in the embroidered cushions on the chairs. Here
was an elaborate cabinet, carved from wood to look like a
miniature castle; a broad, dark desk where the king conducted his
affairs; the long sofa and chairs and table where he sat. Alone.

Why had he remained so solitary? Surely, he'd been the most

handsome and eligible bachelor in Germany, perhaps in the world,
for most of his adult life. Obviously, he had a heart. No soulless
person could create this kind of art.

Beyond the living room the ceiling dropped, and Grace found
herself stepping incongruously into a cave-like room carved from

The grotto is a reproduction of a scene from the Tannhauser opera.

The king loved to create fantasy worlds and immerse himself in
them. As the years went on, Ludwig became more and more reluctant
to leave his fantasy playlands, and more removed from the duties
of the state.

She reached a flight of stairs and took them up, winding hi a

circle around a massive stone pillar in what was clearly one of
the towers. At the top was a huge, gilded hall.

This is the Singer's Hall. It was built for concerts and

performances, though Ludwig himself never gave a public concert
here. It is said that during the last few years of his life,
Wagner would visit the king and the two men would shut themselves
up in this room. The mystery is further compounded by the murals
on the wall. Initially, they were from the Parsival saga, but in
1882 Ludwig had them all repainted, supplying the descriptions of
the scenes himself. Unlike the other rooms in the castle, the
scenes in the Singer's Hall are not from any identifiable opera or
myth. It has fueled rumors of a "lost opera," particularly since
the king wrote to the conductor of the Munich opera in 1883
telling him to "prepare for a new Wagner." Of course, no such
piece ever appeared and the composer died the same year.

It is yet another of the many enigmas left by the life of the

fairy-tale king.

Grace, by now familiar with the fantasy paintings of the castle,

walked over to the first mural. The style was the same as those in
the compartments below, a kind of Arthurian fantasy blended with
realism that was really quite beautiful and appealing, rather like
illustrations from a children's book.

On the first panel was a Valkyrie-type maiden with long, wavy gold
hair. She stands in a modest dwelling with an older couple, surely
her parents. They're all dressed in expensive but threadbare
clothes. The parents hold out a picture to the young maiden
beseechingly, a picture of an older man. The girl weeps.

The second panel. The rich older man, in a public ceremony, gives
the golden-haired girl a bracelet. The girl looks terribly sad,
but her parents stand firmly behind her. A betrothal?

The third panel. The girl, alone in her room, casts the bracelet
into the fire in a tearful rage.

The fourth panel. The girl, now draped in concealing robes, is at

the blacksmith's. She speaks with a dirty, ragged apprentice,
showing him the bent and ruined bracelet. Her face reflects her
fear, and that of the youthful and handsome apprentice reflects
loyalty and love.

The fifth panel. The maid sits in a garden glen. On the ground
next to her is a newly opened burlap parcel with a mended bracelet
inside, but the maid isn't paying it the slightest heed, for the
apprentice is leaning over, kissing her. Her posture indicates
that she is startled but not necessarily displeased.

Grace grinned.

The sixth panel. The maid and the apprentice fleeing in the dark
woods. Dogs and men on horseback are almost upon them.

Grace crossed the room and began making her way up the opposite
side of the hall.

The seventh panel. A legal proceeding. The maid and the apprentice
stand bound while the rich fiance pleads his case. He is pointing
a finger at the apprentice, his face dark with thunder. Accusing?

The eighth panel. Grace stopped in her tracks and stared. In the
foreground is a white, shining wolf. It stands in front of a pair
of terrified children, barring the way. A few feet down the
painted path is a black wolf, growling carnivorously.
A black wolf. And a white wolf. A black wolf and a white wolf.
Geez Louise.

The intent of the painting was clear—the white wolf was protecting
the children from the black wolf. But what, if anything, did it
have to do with the Black Wolf that Christian Ritter had warned
Ludwig about?

For that matter, what did it have to do with the first seven

The ninth panel. The golden-haired maid is confined in a sparsely

furnished stone tower. She sits at the window, looking down. At
the edge of the woods in the distance stands the white wolf. She
is staring at the wolf, and the wolf at her.

The tenth panel. The wedding feast. The villagers are gathered in
their finest clothes, and at the bridal table is the cruel-looking
rich man, the maid dressed in white, and her parents. Everyone in
the picture is in a state of alarm, for in the middle of the room
stands the white wolf. Its snout is raised in a howl. At the head
table the rich man is in the act of trying to rise. One hand
clutches his throat.

Grace stared at the picture for a long time. What, exactly, was
going on in the scene? She moved slowly to the eleventh panel,
hoping for elucidation. It was the final, requisite tragic scene,
reminiscent of so many of the Wagner operas or of the
Shakespearean tragedies, for which the catchphrase was formulated
"everyone dies."

Here lay the white wolf on its side, bloody from battle and
clearly dying. Draped over the wolf in mourning is the maid with
the golden hair. The wedding guests, now carrying torches and
rough weapons, light the wooded scene. And the black wolf, its
tongue hanging out, lies dead and conquered to one side. The look
on the maid's face is tragedy personified.

Grace wondered how many times the artist had had to redo that look
before Ludwig was satisfied. What had the solitary king meant by
these paintings? Had he written the story himself? Perhaps even a
libretto? And whatever happened to the apprentice? Was he linked
somehow to the white wolf? Was it a werewolf story?

With these questions chilling her, Grace wandered downstairs to

the gift shop, barely conscious of the journey. She approached the
girl behind the counter.

"Gruss Gott. Sprechen Sie English?"

"A little."

"Is there any more information about the paintings in the Singer's
The girl smiled regretfully. "No. The tape has all the

Grace frowned. "But someone must have worked on the paintings. The
artist perhaps? Didn't he leave a record of Ludwig's

The girl looked at Grace blankly. "I don't know. We have slides
and postcards."

Grace sighed and gave up. She bought a full series of the Singer's
Hall paintings on postcards and an English biography of the king
written by a Sir Richmond Chaphill, then took her package out into
the courtyard.

The rain had stopped, and though the sky was still thick with gray
clouds, the sun peeked through stubbornly. Grace found a wooden
bench that was almost dry and tucked her raincoat carefully
underneath her. She began to skim through the book.
Other than his long-standing friendships with his mother and the Empress
Elizabeth of Austria, relationships were nearly always a disappointment
for Ludwig and a bewilderment for his partners. He would become obsessed
with someone—a singer, an artist, a nobleman, or peasant—and would
bombard them with gifts and praise. When they would fail to return the
depths of rapturous passion he required, he would get hurt and would cut
himself off from them abruptly. The objects of his interests were
occasionally women, usually ones he fell in love with after seeing them
in idealized roles on the stage. But they were most often young men who
fit his fantasies of the heroic sagas like Lohengrin and Parsival.

Grace's brows creased in a thoughtful frown. Was the author trying

to say what she thought he was trying to say? She flipped through
the pages and found a letter dated 1864 from Ludwig's manservant
to a friend.
The king has been in a high mood these days. The reason, of course, is a
new interest. Thursday last the king attended a performance of Lohengrin
in the Res-idenztheater. He returned in a fever and demanded that a man
be found. The man, it was gathered, had been sitting in a box opposite
the king's own, and had drawn the king's attention by his "beauty" and
his "deep emotional response" to the performance. The king declared,
"Here at last is a sensitive soul!"

The man was tracked down and brought in for an audience. Upon my word,
never have I seen any mind so in line with His Majesty's own! They
discussed Wagner and France and Byron and all manner of things until well
past dawn. The young man, beautiful indeed to look upon, met the king's
enthusiasm and knowledge bit for bit! Well, His Majesty has been in the
thick of it ever since and, while 1 welcome his good temper, I grow tired
of fetching letters back and forth to "Louis" (so called by His Majesty—
that should tell you who the young man looks like) at all hours of the

Grace read the letter twice, trying to absorb it. 1864! That was
the same year Christian Ritter warned Lud-wig about the Black
Wolf. Could one thing be related to the other? Grace thought
about it. Probably not. After all, many things happened in a
single year—a fact easy to forget when that year was so long
ago. And Christian Ritter's letter had only implied that the
Black Wolf knew Ludwig—not that they were particularly close.

Grace found nothing else about "Louis," and once again the
author had sidestepped the critical issue the letter raised—was
Louis a lover? A friend? She checked the copyright page. The
book had been written in 1958. No wonder.

Then, when she'd about given up on the writer, she found it, in
the very last chapter. It was discreet, but it was clear.
The king, particularly later in his life, experienced a great deal of
guilt about his sexual nature. His diaries are full of entries begging
God for forgiveness and swearing to remain pure henceforth. The sheer
number of these "oath entries" indicates that Ludwig was not very
successful at resisting temptation. Yet those who would condemn him out
of hand should note that Ludwig was clearly a God-fearing man and that,
though his flesh might occasionally fall, he never surrendered his heart
and his mind to sin.

Indeed, it might well be this conflict between his Christian heart and
his unnatural desires that led him down the path to reclusiveness,
insanity, and, ultimately, destruction.

Grace put the book down slowly, feeling tempted to throw the
author at the wall. Ludwig didn't deserve such prying eyes, such
boorish, bigoted prying eyes. But her anger was only the tip of
the emotional swell; the rest had no name. She'd connected with
something about him in the dream—connected mentally and
physically. Now the picture that she'd begun to form at this
place, so inexplicably sad, so ignominiously personal, struck her
to the quick.

She sat there in the courtyard for a very long time, staring at

The idea of the diary was uppermost in Grace's mind when she
arrived at Herrenchiemsee. Like Neuschwanstein, Ludwig had picked
the location for this castle based on pure scenic beauty and
isolation. Practicality, it seemed, was not an important
consideration for Ludwig. Where the workers on Neuschwanstein had
lugged heavy rock and marble up the steep mountainside in horse-
drawn carts, the workers of Herrenchiemsee had had to ferry it
over a lake, then tote it another mile to the actual construction
site. Grace took the same journey, her spirits buffeted by the
rigorous March wind and the sloshing of the gray, restless lake.

The castle was based on Versailles—an elongated governmental

palace, not a vertical phantasm like Neuschwanstein. Yellow stone
and matching columns marched along the facade with a nod to the
Greek, and a fountain and formal gardens bespoke of more logical
minds than the king's. Did Ludwig really find such orderliness
soothing? Or was this palace merely another set piece, a prop
built to play French monarch, then abandoned soon after like a
longed-for toy that does not deliver the joy it had plighted.

The impression of a set was deepened inside. Beyond the doors to

the royal suite was the grand entrance hall. An enormous staircase
bombarded the eye with brightly hued marbles in reds, golds, and
blues. And here, as if welcoming the king home, or perhaps, more
pertinently, as if heralding Act I, was a golden statue of the Sun
King himself, Louis XIV, with his long, curling wig, hose, and
pointy shoes, and no doubt idealized regal countenance.

"Louis", that should tell you who the young man looks like.

Grace studied the statue, as if the face would tell her something,
but if it held any secrets it did not reveal them to her. She
moved through the rooms quickly, feeling no compulsion to pause.
The king had abandoned this place, as he had his third castle,
Linder-hof, an even smaller depiction of Versailles. He'd fallen
out of love with them well before he died. His soul was not here.

His mature dreams had been of Neuschwanstein and the illusive

Falkenstein, and it was easy to see why. Herrenchiemsee was all
white walls with heavy, garish gilt cherubs and swirls in every
nook and cranny. Its design was that of a baroque palace but, like
a prop piece, it had been constructed with materials that could
offer only the immediate illusion. The plaster was wearing on many
walls, and the gilt that covered the swirls and cherubs was
darkened with the dirt of time and, in some cases, worn away
entirely, revealing cheap resin underneath. At its peak the palace
would have been sterile and garish. Now it was a shabby curiosity
piece and had the sort of appeal an old, elaborate dollhouse had;
the power to evoke amazement that someone had once gone to so much
trouble and expense for something so nonfunctional.

The last room on the tour was the hall of mirrors. At last Grace
felt a sense of Ludwig. There was something in the endless
procession of glass that had, perhaps, captured a piece of the
elusive monarch's soul. At night, the tour guide said, hundreds of
candles would be lit in this room, and Ludwig would walk here
alone, watching his reflection in the glass.

Grace walked up to one of the mirrors and stared into it. She
could picture Ludwig standing where she stood, doing the same

The face in the glass was not a smiling one.

After the tour she hurried downstairs. There was something more
important here than the palace itself. One wing had been converted
to a Ludwig museum.
It did not disappoint. Clothing, furniture, and personal effects
were housed here, letters and official documents bearing his
signature and seal. His life story was told progressively on
modern, opaque white signs that hung from wires amidst the

Childhood portraits. A Victorian royal household; cruelly strict

discipline and diet, structured, endless lessons in Greek and
Latin, mathematics and science and all the other graces thought
necessary for a crown prince. And a boy who loved art and poetry
and daydreaming had to steal his pleasures the way another steals
cookies from a shrewish maiden aunt. His younger brother, Otto,
was his only companion.

At sixteen, the young man who had convinced his tutors to let him
study the German legends finally gets permission to see
Lohengrin. The opera is based on the saga of a Knight of the
Holy Grail, a story painted on the walls of Ludwig's childhood
castle Hohen-schwangau. For hours as a child he would stand and
stare at the romantic paintings of knights and swans and
maidens. Now he stares, enthralled, as Wagner presents his
virtuoso adaptation. Ludwig falls to Wagner like a teenage girl
succumbing to Lennon and McCartney.
At eighteen his father dies and Ludwig is crowned. The people
can scarcely believe the ephemeral beauty and romantic chivalry
of their new king. The middle-aged parliament ministers cannot
believe their luck at having such a naive charge. Now the real
regimentation begins: meetings, paperwork, hours and days in
parliament. Sign this, sign that—no, don't bother to read it.
Put on the robes and pose.

When she came to a large portrait of a beautiful woman, she

stopped, curious. EMPRESS ELIZABETH OF AUSTRIA, a placard said,
LIFELONG FRIEND OF LUDWIG H. Elizabeth, a cousin, had grown up
in a royal house on Starnberger See, and she and her sister had
played with Ludwig as children. But Elizabeth was eight years
older than Ludwig, and she was married to the heir of the
Austrian throne before Ludwig came of age. The two shared a
lifelong bond, however, exchanging letters frequently. True to
his tendency to playact, Ludwig called her "the Dove" and he was
"the Eagle." Ludwig had been smitten with her ever since her
romantic, storybook engagement and wedding, perhaps because he
could not have her.
In a glass case was correspondence between the two cousins and
their translations.
3 July, 1863

My Dove, You can have no idea, dear cousin, how happy you made me. The
hours recently passed with you in the railway carriage I consider among
the happiest in my life; never will their memory fade. You gave me
permission to visit you at Ischl; if the time comes for this ardent hope
to be fulfilled, I shall be of all men upon the earth the most blessed.

The feelings of sincere love and reverence and faithful attachment to you
which I cherished in my heart even as a boy make me imagine heaven upon
earth, and will be extinguished by death alone. I beg you with all my
heart to forgive the contents of this letter—but I could not help myself.
. . . Your Eagle

1 March, 1868

My dearest Eagle. You have not written me in a few months—I have missed
you. I often try to imagine what you are doing. I hear tales that you
have been on retreat and have not been seen in Munich for some time. I
suspect it is this friend you write of so mysteriously that takes you
away from home!

I hope you are enjoying yourself, my beloved, but I beg you to caution.
The people need to see you on the throne. I also hesitate to suggest that
what your officials do in your absence may not always be in your best
interest. You have always been a true king, but you must let the people
see you to ensure that they don't forget that.

E., your dove

14 June, 1878

My beloved Eagle. In your last letter you spoke so bitterly of your

torment that I was moved to tears. What is this torment? Why won't you
confess to me what is truly troubling you? You must know that I would
never despise you, no matter how horrible you believe your sins to be.
Please do not write such barbs to my heart by even suggesting such
things. If you do not wish to confess to me, at least tell me how I can
help. I am always your true one, your Dove.

Next to this letter was a placard which read, "It was obvious to
his few close friends that Ludwig was struggling with his mental
state near the end."

Grace frowned at this interpretation of the letter. Perhaps his

torments were real enough. But whatever they were, not even
Elizabeth had been allowed to share them.

In his twenties, it appeared that Ludwig had taken his role as

king seriously. There were signed decrees and pictures and
drawings of Ludwig in public processions, even a portrait of
Ludwig in heavy blue velvet robes with the classic ermine,
knighting a member of the gentry. Around him men in blue velvet
Ludwig as Grand Master of the Knights of St. George. This was a
hereditary role for the Bavarian monarchy and one Ludwig relished before
his natural reclusiveness and dislike for public display caused him to
give up such activities.
Knights of St. George? Could this be Ludwig's connection to
Gabriel? To Christian Ritter? At the very least it was an odd
coincidence. And yet something about the description did not ring
true. The portrait, with the romantic pomp and circumstance and
the costumes, seemed to reflect the kind of thing Ludwig would
have loved. He was no doubt an introverted soul, but was it really
that urge that had driven him away from this kind of ceremony or
was it the restrictive hand of his ministers? Was it their vision
of a figurehead he had rejected? Or was it something else

The turning point came in 1873, when Ludwig was twenty-eight. One
of the displays depicted Ludwig being knocked from his horse in
the woods.
Ludwig, while young, was in fine physical condition and loved to hike in
the Alps and to ride horses. He had a hunting lodge, Schachen, built for
this purpose. Unfortunately, in 1873 a rather traumatic accident befell
the king at Schachen, and his leg was cruelly damaged. His physical
health deteriorated from that time on, leading to stoutness in later

Grace paused nervously. The words hunting accident reminded her of

Gabriel's letter and the "hunt club," but surely that was simple
word association?

Beyond this display even the lighting grew dimmer, and the images
themselves grew more disturbing. Displays of Neuschwanstein
drawings and models were combined with tales of the king's
obsessive demands. A workman falls from scaffolding due to
exhaustion. The king has no idea how long things take or how much
they cost and doesn't care. Warnings from parliament. Newspaper
headings from underground printers blaming Ludwig and his
extravagance for the country's financial woes.

1878. Ludwig's brother Otto, his childhood companion and only

sibling, is declared insane after years of disfunction. The flaw
is one inherited through his mother; his great-great-great uncle
Friedrich the Great of Prussia and two sons of Wilhelm II had also
been mentally afflicted. Ludwig is inconsolable. Was he perhaps
afraid for his own sanity as well?

1881. Ludwig now rarely leaves his castle and does not receive
visitors. He's abandoned all duties of state. His servants must
wear elaborate costumes and are not allowed to look at his face;
they are trained to enter bowed over in a painful posture. He
communicates with them through notes passed under doors. Some of
the notes are smuggled out of the castle and passed on to those
who seek to discredit the king. A few of these instruments of
betrayal have survived to be displayed here.
Dec. 14lh-15th, 1881. Linderhof. Every day get up earlier, for certain. See
to that VERY PARTICULARLY. WRITE IT DOWN. Remember that when the Great
Friend arrives at Neuschwanstein and we retire to the hall we are not to
be disturbed! I will not tolerate stupidity or insubordination!

Dec. 19th-20lh, 1881. Linderhof. Order another work by Jennings on the

occult. Write urgently to Klug saying that I insist that the stoppages by
the banks cease. We must get a hundred glass cutters working on my
special project this very week. I WANT it and therefore it MUST be done.
Write very urgently; he must succeed AT ONCE and then must report to me

If I give orders to clear my room, doing so must not be postponed as has

happened. Pencils must be pointed without special orders. The day after
tomorrow a thousand Marks. How is Louis now? I want to know whether or
not he looks unhappy. How often have I said that the coffee must not come
up boiling hot so that it can be drunk only after standing an hour. If
any more correspondence from Louis come, they are to be burned at once,
but I am to be informed of their arrival.

Grace had gotten so involved in the displays, she'd almost

forgotten her purpose in coming. She read the note again,

Louis. According to the Chaphill biography, Ludwig met a Louis

in 1864. Now, in 1881, Louis was definitely out of favor and yet
still clearly an obsession. Was this a temporary feud? Was it
even the same Louis, or did Ludwig call all his paramours that?
Had "the Black Wolf" been a paramour too? She moved on, her
scholar's mind desperate to find answers instead of more
The mounting picture of irrationality so eloquently exemplified
in the king's notes was not ameliorated by the rest of the
displays. Ludwig is ordered by parliament to Munich—he refuses.
His ministers arrive at Linderhof to see him—he denies them
entry. He builds grottos and swan boats and plans a new castle
when the one currently under construction cannot be finished for
lack of funds.

And then, in what seemed to be presented as the pinnacle of

damning evidence, Grace found a reference to the diary.
Ludwig's Diary

Ludwig kept a diary from the time he was twenty-four years old until his
death in 1886. The actual diaries themselves are kept in the Koniglich
Bayerische Archiven. The diaries reflect Ludwig's growing inner torment
Below are some sample entries.

26 July, 1870. By the power of the lily we shall have the strength to
resist temptation throughout the whole year. L & R

21 August, 1878. Solemn oath before the picture of the Great King.
"Refrain for three months from all excitement." This oath has its binding
power, as well as its potency by De Par Le Roy. L & R, D P L R.
The actual photocopies of the entries showed grand flourishes and
seals and what looked like magical symbols by the initials. Had
the magic served him? Had it helped him keep his promises? Don't
we all wish for such talismen at times—when the desires our
logical mind abhors sneak in like serpents under the door? //
thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.

But surely there were other things in the diary— notes about
friends, events, other feelings. Why had the museum chosen these
entries? To show how Ludwig's mind was failing? Or was this the
museum's nod toward the theories of men like Chaphill? Certainly,
they hadn't touched upon Ludwig's sexuality at all in this sad
record of a life.

Grace approached a female guard standing not far away. The woman
had a severe countenance. Grace tried her German, figuring the
woman didn't look like she had much patience for tourists.

"Excuse me. Ludwig's diary . . . the diary is in the Koniglich

Bayrische Archiven? Do you know where that is?"

It seemed like a perfectly reasonable question, but the woman—who

had blond hair pulled so tightly back from her face it slanted her

"Koniglich Bayrische Archiven," she repronounced with greatly cut

vowels. "This is not for tourists."

"Oh. But I'm doing some work—"

"No! No one sees the diary. No one."

Grace left the conversation not overly encouraged. She'd have to

simply hope the woman was wrong and that the records could be
accessed, perhaps with the aid of Professor Barclay.
Why would the diary be refused to historians? They're already
saying he was insane. Chapbill claims he was gay. What could be
more sensitive than that?

And now she had looped nearly to the front again. Here was the
end, 1886. An account was told, in pictures and text, of the
last few days of Ludwig's life. A case displayed the suit he'd
been wearing when he'd drowned. In another was the pale plaster
death mask of the sort popular with Victorians. Grace found the
bloated, lifeless impression too poignant to look at.
June 7,1886. A group of men arrive at Neuschwan-stein castle demanding to
take the king into custody. With them is Dr. Gudden, the doctor in charge
of Otto, the king's mentally ill brother. The men are refused admittance
by a brave group of farmers and local soldiers who have come to Ludwig's
aid. They are forced to retreat to nearby Hohenschwangau. This is the
first Ludwig hears of the conspiracy to take him into custody.
June 12, 1886. Ludwig knows the conspirators will return. He despairs. He
asks his servant for the keys to the tower. The servant, fearing the king
intends suicide, says the key is lost. The conspirators return to the
castle. This time there is no one to stop them. Ludwig is lured from his
bedroom to the entry hall of Neuschwanstein. There he is taken into

Ludwig is driven by carriage from Neuschwanstein to Berg, place of his

brother's imprisonment. On the way the group stops at Seeshaupt. Ludwig
asks to see the postmistress, Frau Vogl. She brings him a glass of water,
and he says something to her. She never reveals these last words to

June 14, 1886. At Berg, Ludwig seems cooperative and coherent. Dr. Gudden
writes to the government that he has Ludwig well under control. The two
men go out for a walk, and Dr. Gudden is so confident that he dismisses
the guards. When Ludwig and the doctor do not return after several hours,
a search is undertaken. The bodies of the two men are found in the lake,
drowned. Circumstances unknown.

June 16, 1886. Ludwig's funeral procession marches through the streets of
Munich, followed by enormous crowds of mourners. The service is held at a
packed St. Michael's church. Lightning strikes the church during the
service, but no one is harmed. Ludwig's body is entombed in the
Wittelsbach crypt at St. Michael's. His heart is placed in an urn in the
pilgrimage chapel at Allotting in the Wittelsbach tradition.

A picture showed Ludwig lying in state amongst a sea of candles

and flowers. And there was an artist's rendering of Ludwig wading
into the water fully dressed, the floating body of Dr. Gudden
behind him. The painting suggested . . . murder/suicide? Had he
been trying to escape? To end it all? Or was Werner right? Had
"they" done him in? According to the displayed newspaper headings,
rumors of murder, even of escape and a fake corpse, were rampant
in Munich for years.

Grace rounded the corner and came face to face with a large
painting—the museum's finale. For a moment she just stared at it,
unable to comprehend.

It was an illustration all in blues of a night scene in the snow.

The scene was dominated by a baroque gilded sleigh pulled by a
team of horses and a masked driver. Ludwig sat in the sleigh
underneath a lap robe.

The image was straight out of her dream.

She sought the explanatory note with a growing panic and found it.
She traced it with her fingertips, not trusting her eyes alone.
The Midnight Sleigh Rides

In his later years Ludwig suffered from insomnia, restlessness,

headaches, and toothaches. He often demanded to have his sleigh brought
out in the middle of the night and would go on long drives through the
countryside at breakneck speed. This romantic but bizarre vision
frightened more than one peasant, and superstitious rumors abounded about
the king and his midnight excursions.

Grace reluctantly raised her eyes to confront the painting again

and was alarmed to recognize the red buttons depicted on the
upholstery of the sleigh's backseat. She turned and ran from the
museum, her heart thudding painfully in her chest.

Outside, the wind had accelerated into heavy gusts. It snatched at

her thick black hair and the hem of her yellow raincoat so that
she imagined, as she half stumbled, half ran the mile to the
ferry, that something had exited Herrenchiemsee with her and was
nipping at her soul—trying to snatch pieces of life, perhaps, or
trying to pull her away, to whisk her off to some unknown place
where the damned and the lonely have long been abandoned.

By the time Grace returned to Rittersberg, it was early evening

and darkness had fallen. She was almost looking forward to seeing
Gerde, she realized, as she drove up the hill to the castle.
Seeing anyone at all would be a comfort.

But then she remembered—she couldn't talk to Gerde. Thoughts of

why that was only increased her agitation and confusion. The
knowledge of what it might be like later, when Gabriel got back,
and he and Gerde ... It made her stomach ache and her chest
palpitate. She grew irritated at these feelings and scolded
herself mercilessly. After all, the Gabriel Knight she'd known in
New Orleans was not the sort of man any woman could count on. How
many phone calls from one-night stands had she turned away at his
insistence? It was true that he was a beautiful man, there was no
denying it. And he had a cockiness and a sense of humor that was
exasperatingly endearing. But she could acknowledge that stuff
without allowing herself to fall for it, couldn't she? She was not
some hormone-driven machine. She was determined not to be the kind
of woman who fell for hopeless causes, not a "when good women fall
for bad boys" basket case. He was funny, a good friend, a partner.
Leave it at that.

But how could she even be those things to him with Gerde in the

The castle was dark and silent—no lights at the castle door, no
lights in any of the windows. And when she entered the front door,
no light or warmth greeted her. Silence. Dark.

Grace began to fret. How long had it been since she'd seen Gerde?
Hadn't she screamed aloud in the night and no one had come? Had
Gerde really been that cold-hearted? Or had she not been in the
castle at all?

There was a message on the machine. Grace played it back, hoping

it was Gerde or even Gabriel himself. It was Professor Barclay.
He'd gotten a name and phone number for a Ludwig expert living in
Salzburg—a Josef Dallmeier. Grace jotted the info down.

Then she went to the gasthof to see Werner.

Gerde's uncle was polishing glasses behind the bar. The Smiths
were nowhere hi sight, but their car was still in the lot outside.
Werner gave her his grim, secretive nod.

"Have you seen Gerde?" Grace asked. "She hasn't been at the castle
all day."

Werner looked at the calendar and grunted. "It's her anniversary.

I forgot. I should make her something to eat. Probably she was
there all day. Some Spatzle maybe."
Grace's dark brows knit in confusion. "Anniversary of what?"
Werner looked at her oddly. "The anniversary of Gerde and
Wolfgang. I think it was the day they met."

Grace's jaw slipped open in a non-vocal O. A series of

realizations played across her face. "Well . . . well, where is

"At the gruft," Werner answered, as though this should be


It was eight o'clock when the front hall doors creaked open and
Gerde entered. She wore a long woollen coat and sturdy galoshes.
In the shadows of the entryway she removed these things, slowly
and heavily, as if each limb were weighed down by the same
stone. She paused in her actions once or twice, her head lifting
and sniffing the air.
"You've been cooking?" she asked, trying to sound disinterested.
Her growling stomach betrayed her.
Grace put down her magazine and smiled. "Yup. You've had such an
unpleasant visitor; I wanted to make it up to you."
She walked over and took Gerde's hand—it was an awkward gesture
and one that was hedged by an expectation of rejection. But
Gerde was too nonplussed to protest.
"Werner gave me the idea of making you dinner," Grace said as
she pulled Gerde toward the kitchen. "I tried to do Japanese,
but I have to warn you, the supply of ingredients in town is
pretty damn grim."
Gerde stopped, pulling her hand away. Her eyes filled with
tears. For a moment she just looked at Grace as though trying to
judge this change of heart. Then she said, "Grace, Gabriel and I
... we never ..."
Grace blushed from her asymmetrical part to her toenails. "I
know. I'm an idiot, okay? Gabriel, he's just the sort that would.
. . . God, you must know that by now, even in this small a town!"

But Gerde just looked at Grace and shook her head, confused.

"Never mind," Grace said, her blush deepening further still.

"Anyway, I'm sorry about before."

Gerde took a quavering breath and smiled tentatively. "Okay."

"Really?" Grace looked at Gerde hopefully. " 'Cause I was hoping

you wouldn't mind talking over dinner— about the case, that is.
Will you help me figure things out?"

Gerde pushed away her tears, her smile lighting up. "Yes. I would
like that very much."

At nine o'clock Grace was sitting at the desk in the library,

trying to decide whether it was too late to call Josef Dallmeier.
She gave in to temptation and dialed. Dallmeier didn't seem at all
bothered. He had a light, pleasant voice, and he cajoled Grace
into telling him her impressions of the castles. For the second
time that night Grace went over it—this time leaving out the
sensitive parts like the sleigh.

"You've certainly picked up the feel of it," Dallmeier said,

impressed. "But what they won't tell you at those places—because
it doesn't make for happy tourists—is the political side."

"What political side?"

"Ludwig is the Bavarian monarch who gave away the Bavarian

monarchy. He signed away our independence, our country. ... It
should be what history remembers him for, but that act has gotten
lost in all the fluff about castles and sleigh bells."

"I knew the unification happened around then!" Grace said,

remembering her initial impression of the Christian Ritter letter.
"So Ludwig himself signed the treaty?"

"It was Ludwig, all right. We were just getting over the Hundred
Years War. France was threatening to rise again. Prussia proposed
that they and Bavaria unite into a common German state for
strength. Lud-wig resisted for a while, but he signed in 1870.
He became a figurehead under the Prussian kaiser. Shortly after
his death the Bavarian monarchy dissolved completely."
Grace frowned into the receiver. "That doesn't make sense.
Everything I've seen implies that Ludwig wanted an absolute
monarchy—just the opposite."
Dallmeier grunted. "I agree. Maybe he thought he wasn't a real
king anyway. The parliament did have a great deal of power. And
Prussia's push to unite the German peoples against France was
logical. Still, he could have negotiated better terms for
Bavaria. I'm convinced that Bismarck had a hand in there
somewhere. He usually did."

Grace thought back, trying to remember her European history.

"Bismarck was a Prussian chancellor, right?"

"The Prussian chancellor," Dallmeier said sourly. "He was in

power before Ludwig came to the throne, and he outlived him,
too. What a cagey son of a bitch he was."

"Did he know Ludwig?"

"Officially, yes, but they had no personal relations. No,
Bismarck was subtler than that. He had a reputation for learning
people's weaknesses and exploiting them from behind the scenes.
It was a matter of record that Bismarck had spies on Ludwig's
staff. And you can bet that he had a hand in the insanity
"Wow," Grace said, her mind racing with the possibilities. "What
about Ludwig's diary? Have you seen it?"

"No. It's locked up like diamond-encrusted dirty laundry. There

was an English biographer who got permission—he was some blue-
blooded cousin of the family. That's about it."
Grace bit back a profanity at the disappointing news. "Was the
biographer named Chaphill?"
Dallmeier sounded surprised. "Yes, actually! Have you read his
book? I thought it was moronic myself. Imagine having access to
that kind of material and wasting it. I suppose he was a product
of his generation. Even so, that's no excuse."

Grace sighed. "God, I really need to see that diary."


Dallmeier sounded genuinely curious. Grace considered how much to

tell him. She certainly had no desire to scare him off with talk
of werewolves, but she wasn't going to learn anything without
putting out some bait.

"Have you ever heard of anyone called the Black Wolf in

association with Ludwig?"

There was a pause while Dallmeier went through his mental file.
"I found a letter that was written to Ludwig warning him about
'the Black Wolf.' I'm desperate to find out more about it."

"This letter was written when?" Dallmeier's voice held the

restrained excitement of a scholar smelling a new discovery.


"I would like to see it."

"You're welcome to see it. So you've never heard of the Black

Wolf? There was nothing at the castles except for a few paintings
in the Singer's Hall."

"No . . . but I can do some research if you'd like. We have an

impressive collection of German documents here at the university."

Grace sat up, sparked by hope. "Would you? That would be great."

"And there's so much more to tell you about Ludwig. Would you meet
me in the morning? About an hour north of you is Starnberger See.
We could rendezvous there at the chapel. Say about nine o'clock?"

Grace nodded eagerly at the receiver. "That sounds perfect. I'd

really appreciate it."

"No problem. Maybe I can bring you some good news about the Black
Wolf. I'll look into it tonight."

"Great. Thank you very much, Herr Dallmeier. Good night."

Grace hung up the phone and wrapped her robe tighter around her.
Good news about the Black Wolf. Somehow that didn't seem likely.
She padded back to the warmth of the bedroom and the fire she and
Gerde had laid earlier.

She climbed onto the enormous antique bed and tucked her freezing
toes underneath her. She pulled and prodded the blankets until
they surrounded her like a shroud. Then she stared into the fire,
the crackling fire, and shivered.

And she wondered what Gabriel was doing right now.

Chapter 5

When Gabriel awoke it took him several seconds to remember where

the hell he was. He was lying on red satin sheets and the room
around his bed was wallpapered in a deep burgundy fleur-de-lis
print. This was definitely not the Huber farm.
Ah! Last night.

He'd decided to go to von Glower's. Though he was a little nervous

after what had happened at the club, he was even less interested
in staying at the farm alone—particularly after that nasty feeling
he'd had in the yard.

But von Glower was neither angry nor suspicious of him. They'd sat
on the couch telling stories and drinking wine for several hours.
Friedrich really had traveled all over the world, and he had some
great stories to tell.

And then the girl had shown up.

Gabriel couldn't even remember her name. He'd been about two and a
half sheets gone when she'd arrived, and all he could remember was
a tight red gown over an incredible body and shining gold hair.

She was on her way home from the opera, she'd said, or at least he
thought he'd recognized the word opera in her German, though it
was pronounced a little more like "Oprah." And then she was in
Friedrich's lap and her lips locked with his and . . . * * *

Gabriel stood up from the couch, feeling awkward. "I'd better get

Friedrich pushed the girl back gently. "You don't have to go."

"Nah, I should go."


His host whispered something in the girl's ear. She looked at

Gabriel—a playful, appraising gleam in her eye—and nodded. She
climbed off Friedrich's lap, grabbed Gabriel's hand, and pulled
him back down into the sofa. Soft limbs and hands pushing him
back—soft lips, warm tongue.

Gabriel felt his body move from zero to fifty in about two seconds
flat. It had been a long stay in Rittersberg.

"I can't," he said when she finally released his lips. His voice
held little conviction. The girl ignored him, nuzzling his neck.

"Why not? I didn't expect her tonight, and for some reason I don't
find myself in that mood."

At Gabriel's expression, Friedrich smiled. "Don't worry, she

doesn't speak English. Besides, she and I understand each other
well enough."

"But . . . she's . . . she's yours."

Friedrich picked up his glass and laughed. "It's not an exclusive

arrangement, I assure you. From what you've told me, you've been
living like a monk down at that castle. Your body deserves some

The baron smiled slowly as he leaned back. He seemed to find

satisfaction in the spectacle before him and displayed not a trace
of discomfort, but Gabriel felt awkward. He grabbed Detta's left
hand, which was slowly unbuttoning his shirt.

"Detta, Zeige ihm sein Schlafzimmer," Friedrich said. It was

amazing how commanding his voice could be, even when it was
agreeably soft.

Detta stood and tugged on Gabriel's hand. He looked at Friedrich,

questioning one last time. "Are you sure?"

"Enjoy your evening," Friedrich said. His eyes were warm and

And Gabriel, who had protested as much as he could muster, went

with Detta up the stairs and into oblivion.

Afterward, Detta dressed and left him. Between the wine and the
physical release he felt heavier and more relaxed than he had in
ages. He closed his eyes and seemed to be sinking deeper into the
bed with every breath.

Then something on his chest moved, soft, like the brush of an

insect's wings. He opened his eyes to see Friedrich sitting beside
him. The dark-haired man was backlit in the glow from the hall as
he looked down at the talisman in his hand. He raised his eyes
from it slowly.

"It's beautiful," he said. "A lion and a dragon locked in combat.

Potent imagery." He laid the medallion back down on Gabriel's bare
chest. "I take it you're the lion?" He smiled. "Good night, my
feline friend."

He reached out a hand and brushed back a lock of Gabriel's hair,

then stood up and walked out. He closed the door behind him.

Gabriel watched him go, surprised at the intimacy, and even more
surprised that it felt all right, even comforting, like being
tucked into bed.

And then the mattress reached out to swallow him and he was fast

He allowed himself a quick shower in the guest bathroom before

dressing. He went downstairs and called Friedrich's name. Gunter
showed up instead. He greeted Gabriel in German and motioned
toward the dining room, where breakfast was waiting. There was a
note on the plate.
Gabriel—I have some business to attend to. I'll see you later today at
the club. Regards, V.G.

Gunter was pouring a cup of coffee that Gabriel couldn't resist.

He pulled out the chair, suddenly starving. Gunter was apparently
used to serving hearty eaters, for he kept bringing the food and
Gabriel ate and ate and ate.

He was half afraid it would be gone, that Xavier had cleaned up

and that the tape recorder had been discovered and confiscated.
And how in God's name could he ever explain that?

But it was there, right behind the magazines as he'd left it. It
had shut itself off when it ran out of tape. Gabriel pocketed the
device and left the club, headed for a certain youthful mystery

"Can I bother you for another favor, Harry?"

"Anything. What is it?"

"I need something translated." Gabriel pulled he tape recorder

from a pocket.

Ubergrau's eyes shone eagerly. "Yes? Okay! How do you say? Roll

Gabriel sighed patiently and started the tape.

"Wir mussen miteinander reden," came Klingmann's nervous voice.

" 'We should talk,' " Ubergrau said.

"Nein," said von Zell flatly.

" 'Nooooo,' " said Ubergrau, with a surprised lifting of one brow.

"Est ist meine Karriere, verdammt nochmal! Viel-leicht sogar mehr

wenn die Polizei . . ."

"Ich habe Ihnen dock gesagt, nicht dumber zu sprechen!"

Ubergrau was listening intently. "The first one says his career is
in danger, maybe more if the police . . . and the other says 'I
told you not to speak of it!' "

"Aber . . . Ich denke mir daft die Polizei bereits weift daft
unsere Wolfe nichts damit zutunhaben. Die konnen einen Test machen
. . . an den Korpern," Klingmann said in a low tone.

"He says, 'The police must know that our wolves are not
responsible—there are tests they can run on the bodies.' "
Ubergrau looked alarmed.
"Gut. Ihre gefluchteten Wolfe sind keine Killer. Was soil's?
Halten Sie nur Ihren Mund. Sie sind damit besser dram," came von
Zell's curt reply.

" 'So? Your escaped wolves aren't killers. What's the problem?' "

"Aber . . . Herr Knight. Er kam gestern morgen zu meinen Euro. Er

hat viele Fragen gestellt."


Ubergrau looked at Gabriel, his eyes wide. "He says you came to
his office asking a lot of questions."

"Uber die Wolfe."

". . . about the wolves."

Gabriel stopped the tape. Ubergrau's golden eyebrows knit into a

fuzzy line of misgiving. "Herr Knight, who are these men?"

"Just some friends," Gabriel said, his mind elsewhere.

"Why does that sound like such a very bad idea?"

"Wait, there's more." Gabriel fast-forwarded the tape a bit and

started it again.
"Was ist los von Aigner? Ich mufi mil jemand anderem reden," von
Zell said in a tight voice.

" 'What is it, von Aigner? I have someone else to speak with,' "
Ubergrau translated.

"Ich habe mir gedacht . . . Wissen Sie etwas fiber Grossbergs

Tod?" said von Aigner.

" 'Do you know anything about . . . about Grossberg's death "

"Wieso sollte ich?" Von Zell sounded pissed now.

" 'Why should I?' "

"Nun . . . ganz eifach . . . Ich gab Ihnen Seinen Namen."

Ubergrau's eyes were wide blue pools. " 'It's just that I gave you
his name.' "

" 'And?' "

"Herr Knight fragte mich, ob ich Grossberg kenne."

"Was!" von Zell exploded.

There was the sound of a chair scraping, and von Aigner muttered,
"Oh, mist."

Gabriel stopped the tape.

"He said you asked him if he knew Grossberg."

"Yeah, I, um, I kinda got that part." Gabriel smiled rakishly, but
his heart wasn't in it.

Ubergrau regarded him grimly. "You know, it would be a great

tragedy if the Ritter line were to die out. A great tragedy. Not
just for our firm, you understand ..."

"Harry, I know what I'm doin'."

Ubergrau looked unconvinced. "These men are involved with the

murders in some way, aren't they? Perhaps we should call the

Gabriel nodded, his eyes still hazy with remote possibilities.

"Sure. I will. In a bit." He blinked and looked at the young
lawyer. "By the way, any luck with that missing-persons search?"

Ubergrau muttered worriedly under his breath and picked up a

folder. "Frau Hogel left the results with me this morning."

"What'd she find out?"

"There are two forests where missing-persons incidents are

unusually heavy. The Nationalpark Bayer-ischer Wald, or the
Bavarian National Forest, and the Naturpark Schwabisch-Frankischer
Wald—the Swiss Franconia Forest."

"What do you mean, 'unnaturally heavy'?"

"Between 1970 and 1990 there were ten to twelve cases each year in
these areas. In 1991 it went up to seventeen, then back down to
twelve in '92 and '93. Both sets of figures are very similar."

"That sounds high. Is it . . ."

"Before 1970 the figures had been more like one to two cases a
year. And Frau Hogel checked these figures against the same years
in Munich. In the sixties, it was one to two cases annually. In
the seventies three to five, then four to eight in the eighties,
four to ten in the nineties. Not the same kind of jump in
percentage at all."

"Hmmm . . ."

"Does something ring a bell?" Ubergrau asked, his boyish face

frightfully dire.
"If it does, I'll be able to hear it loud and clear," Gabriel
mused worriedly. "I'm leavin' this afternoon for the Bavarian
National Forest."

He had a hard time extricating himself from the office after that.

Von Aigner had given Grossberg's name to von Zell. Why? What
possible interest could von Zell have in someone like Grossberg?
What interest did von Aigner have in him, for that matter?

There was no point in going back to Grossberg's office. There was

nothing more to be learned there. The police have taken all of Hen
Grossberg's papers.

He sat on a bench in the Marienplatz to watch the tourists snap

photographs and to consider his strategy. The golden statue of
Mary gazed down benevolently at the square that bore her name and
at the pensive American who sat there. Gabriel stared at the
statue, really noticing it for the first time. Marienplatz. Mary.
So that was where the name came from. It was odd the way she
seemed to be gazing right at him—surely an illusion.

And while staring at her, trying to decipher it, he realized what

he had to do.

Leber looked up with surprise as Gabriel entered his office.

"The American P.I.," he said dryly. "Come in."

"Hey, Kriminalkommisar Leber. Phew! That's a mouthful. Sure I

can't call you K.K.L. for short? No, too hard to remember. How
'bout K.K.K. to make it—"

"Sit down!" Leber scowled.

Gabriel sat obediently. "Anythin' new on the case?"

"Nothing for your ears. If that's all you came in for—"

"Not quite." Gabriel slouched down in his chair in a most
irritating display of relaxation. "I was speakin' with
Grossberg's secretary the other day? Nice girl."
Leber's scowl became almost comic.

"She mentioned somethin' about you guys takin' his papers?"


"So why'd you take his stuff if Grossberg was a random victim?"
"Standard procedure. As long as this case is open, I'm going by
the book." Leber accented this point by jabbing his finger at
the desktop.
"Find anything'?"
"No one's looked yet. One of the younger men will do it. As you
say, Grossberg was a random victim."
"Did I say that?"

Gabriel looked pointedly at the kommissar and drummed his

fingers on his leg.

Leber's beady eyes grew suspicious. "What do you mean?"

"Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. You could let me take a look at
those papers. I could tell you for sure then."

"Tchhhh!" Leber expelled from between clenched teeth. "Never."

"Why not? If he's a random victim like you say, there's no
reason why I shouldn't look at his papers. And if he's not a
random victim, you might get an important clue."
"This is the personal property of a German citizen, Mr. Knight!
As long as his things are in my hands, I am responsible for his
Gabriel raised a sardonic brow. "Um, he's dead. Remember?"
"He still is protected by the law! Why don't you tell me what
you want to know?"
Gabriel pursed his lips and shook his head. "Can't.
I'm not sure what I'm lookin' for, but I'll know when I see it."

Leber grunted derisively. "I don't have time to talk nonsense."

"If I can prove to you that I know somethin'," Gabriel said slyly,
"that Grossberg wasn't just a random victim, will you let me look
at his papers?"

Leber's eyes narrowed into slits. He studied the American, a sneer

pulling his fleshy lips. "I'm listening."

"Good. Keep it up."

Gabriel pulled the tape recorder from his pocket and pressed Play.

"But . . . the police must know that our wolves are not
responsible. There are tests they can run . . . on the bodies."

"So? Your escaped wolves aren't killers. What's the problem?"

Gabriel stopped the tape. Leber sat up, his mouth quivering around
a word like a twelve-year-old pursing for a kiss. "Was . . . was
that Doktor Klingmann from the zoo?"
Gabriel shrugged. "Could be."

"Yes? And who was the other one?"

"Just a minute. There's more."

Gabriel fast-forwarded the tape. He'd marked the spot carefully


"I was wondering . . . Do you know anything about Grossberg's


"Why should I?" came the voice that had earlier spoken to

"It's just. . . I gave you his name ..."

Gabriel stopped the tape. He slipped the recorder back into his

Leber's skin was doing its imitation of a plum. "Who . . . who was

Gabriel smiled helpfully. "The papers first, please."

He knew that Leber could simply confiscate the tape, even lock him
up. And Leber certainly seemed to be considering it. But in the
end he did what Gabriel thought he would. He picked up his phone.
"Stiitter. Bringen Sie Grossbergs Papiere herein."

While they waited, Leber glared at Gabriel in what was presumably

an intimidating manner. A heavyset plainclothesman brought in a
box and left it on Leb-er's desk.

"I'm going out for some coffee. It usually takes me about five
minutes. You'd better have something when I get back, Knight, or

"Right," Gabriel preempted.

"I'll teach you more about German law enforcement than you ever
cared to know!" Leber seemed to feel better for having gotten it
out. He left the room, closing the door behind him.

Gabriel was up and digging through the papers before the sound

"Please, please, please, please, please..." he muttered.

He wasn't sure what he was looking for. Anything on von Aigner, he

guessed, particularly anything that explained what it was
Grossberg did for the man. It had cost him a great deal, these
five minutes, and it was a bad risk. He had to hope that Klingmann
took off for the hunting trip before Leber and his men descended
at the zoo, or it was all over.

He uncovered a large black spiral ledger. Gabriel flipped through

it. Under V, he found von Aigner's name and a list of figures.
2-3-93 1 exotische 4,000

3-1-93 erhalten (4000)

7-10-94 1 exotische 4,000

8-1-94 erhalten (4000)

1-6-95 1 exotische 4,000

2-25-95 erhalten (4000)

The dates, about every six months, marched back to 1985. What did
erhalten and exotische mean? Was exotische "exotic"? It surely
couldn't be furs. Who would buy furs so regularly? Exotic dancers,
maybe? But there was one clue. Right next to the first entry, back
in 1985, was the word, in parentheses, "Dorn." Gabriel, on
instinct, turned back to the D section of the ledger. Yes! There
was an entry for Dorn. He flipped back and forth—the dates
corresponded closely with the dates listed under von Aigner—they
were a day at most apart. And the amounts given under Dorn were
much lower and in parentheses.
2-2-93 1 exotische (2,000)

10-30-94 bezahlt 2000

7-9-94 1 exotische (2,000)

1-5-95 1 exotische (2,000)

Gabriel suddenly realized what he was looking at— debits and

credits. Dorn had sold something to Grossberg—exotische—and von
Aigner bought it for double the cost. And it wasn't cheap—
Grossberg had paid 2,000 DM for whatever it was and sold it to von
Aigner again for 4,000.

What was Dorn selling?

There was a sound at the door. Leber called loudly, "I'm going
back into my office now. In a minute I'm going back in there."

Gabriel ripped the Dorn page from the ledger and stuffed it in a
pocket. The door opened.

"Hey," Gabriel said breathlessly. He returned to his chair and sat


Leber put the box on the floor. His chair, which was on wheels,
groaned as he planted his bulk.
"Tell me," Leber commanded.

"Sure. Herr Doktor Klingmann from the zoo?"


"He belongs to this club, right? And the guy who was askin' about
Grossberg? He's in that club too.

Ditto the third guy, the one with the personality of a pit bull?"
"Go on," Leber said, his face softening with interest.

"And the club itself is only a few blocks from where Grossberg was
killed. Coincidence? I don't think so."

"So maybe Grossberg wasn't a random victim," Leber said, stroking

his chin craftily.

"Uh, right," Gabriel said.

Leber's eyes narrowed as some major parade marched across his

cerebral cortex. "I don't understand this. But I intend to. You
don't suppose . . ."


Leber leaned forward awkwardly over his stomach, studying Gabriel

with an anticipatory expression reminiscent of a kid presenting
his report card. "See, I have a little theory. Maybe the killer is
some kind of pet someone made. Maybe someone like Klingmann, I'm
thinking, now that you tell me this. He had access to the wolves."

"You mean . . . someone bred an animal? From a wolf and a ... a

dog, maybe?"

"It's possible," Leber said, working hard to suppress his delight.

"And if it is a pet, that would explain why you haven't caught it

yet. Maybe someone's hiding it indoors. Someone like Klingmann."

Leber nodded and beamed proudly.

"Well, it's a theory," Gabriel said in a bored voice. He stood up.

Leber's face clouded. "Ah-ah! I want names, Mr. Knight. The names
of the men. The name of the club. And I want that tape."

Gabriel withdrew a blank mini tape from his pocket and tossed it
on the desk. "The guy who knew Grossberg is named, uh, Franz"

"Franz what?"

"That's the last name. And the other guy, the pit bull?, is
Uberlay. And the club is called the Friendly Wanderer.'"
Leber wrote the information down with great care. "Gut. As of now,
I want you to disappear. We'll take care of everything. You

Gabriel tried to look humble. "Yes, Kriminal-komissar."


He used a pay phone to call the number from the ledger page. A
gruff male voice answered. "Hallo?"

"May I speak with Herr Dorn, please?"


"Hi. My name is Smith. I'm an American associate of Grossberg's?

Are you aware that Herr Grossberg has . . . passed on?"

"Dead? Ja, someone called yesterday. Bastard. He fucking owed me

money. Now who's going to pay me, huh?"

The man had obviously learned his English from a colorful


"As it happens, I'll be taking over Grossberg's business


"Ha! That's funny. Who would want Grossberg's business? Being

dead's the best thing that ever happened for him."

"I have my reasons."

Dorn considered this for a bit. "So you gonna pay me, then?" He
sounded gruff, like he didn't dare get his hopes up.

"From Grossberg's ledger, I see he owed you 14,000 marks."

"That's right."

"If we decide to do business together, I'd be happy to pay you.

Could I come by and see your operation?"

There was a suspicious silence. "You're not the police, are you?"

"No, not the police," Gabriel said with a laugh. He hoped he

sounded believable.

"All right, then. But you'd better not be fucking lying."

Dorn gave directions. He operated out of a farmhouse with a large

barn near Giesing.

Gabriel hung up and checked the map. It was about a thirty-minute

drive to the south. If he hurried, he could make it there and back
before the trip that afternoon.
The barn was vast. More unusually for this area, it was in need of
a paint job; its gray paint was folding back to reveal only
slightly less gray wood beneath. The farmhouse was in no better
shape—it looked like the residence of what was called poor white
trash where Gabriel came from. But the place was private. Gabriel
had driven down a dirt road for five minutes before he'd reached
the buildings. There wasn't a neighbor in sight.

Dorn answered the knock on the barn door. "Come in, Mr. Smith."

Gabriel had worked on his "business guy" routine on his way over,
but one look at Dorn told him he needn't have bothered. Whatever
kind of businessman Dorn was, he wasn't the sort that did power
lunches. He was short and swarthy and pungent with cigarettes and
a rank smell that Gabriel initially took for body odor. He wore a
dirty suede coat and work boots, and he refused to meet Gabriel's

Dorn led Gabriel into the barn, latching and barring the door
firmly behind them. The interior was a real shocker. The entire
place had been gutted and remodeled into a kennel. White
partitions formed aisles, and there were rows of stainless steel
cages stacked two and three high. Bright fluorescent lights hung
on wires from the old rafters, and the floor had been covered in
concrete, each aisle tilting down to a large central drain.

The smell he'd sensed on Dorn became ever more pungent as Gabriel
progressed inside. Jungle sounds assaulted his ears. It was a kind
of Wild Kingdom Sense-O-Rama. The inhabitants of the cages came
into view: monkeys, a cheetah, orangutan, and glimpses of cats and
other exotic creatures down farther aisles.

It hit him like a sucker punch from his left brain. The heads in
the basement of the hunt club, von Zell saying they didn't hunt
abroad, the notations in the ledger . . .

Von Aigner wasn't buying furs, he was buying the whole enchilada.
"Exotics," as in exotic animals. A little variety for the true
sportsman, yes indeedy do.

"You have to ignore the smell," Dorn said. "It's these stinking
animals. No matter how much I spray them down, they smell!"

"Some creatures are like that," Gabriel said, barely holding his
disgust for the man and his business in check.

Dorn smiled in what was meant to be an engaging way, but his

stained teeth and his evasive eyes ruined the effect. "You know, I
wouldn't have agreed to meet you. You can never be too fucking
careful. But Grossberg, he mentioned you to me."

"He did?"
"Ja. I called him just a couple of weeks ago, about the fucking
money. I said to him, 'Where's my fucking money?', and he said
that he was getting a new business partner and would soon be able
to pay me everything. I guess I should have believed him, huh?"

Gabriel stared at Dorn, unable to comprehend what any of that

meant. "Uh, yeah."

"So, I'd be interested in hearing your business plan, Mr. Smith."

Gabriel tried to look financially viable. "Oh, I'll probably be

needin' the same kind of services as Grossberg."

Dorn twisted his mouth in a confident smirk. "Furs? I have fucking

good prices for the coats. If you want me to clean it, it's two
hundred fifty marks extra. Or I have a room in back if you want to
do it yourself. If you want the meat, the price depends on the
species. Tiger, for example, you pay a lot more for the body. I
can get fucking good prices for tiger penis."

"I bet."

"I can get anything you want. Cats, Grossberg mostly got. What
kind of goods are you interested in?"

This wasn't going exactly the way Gabriel had expected. Could he
be wrong about von Aigner? "Actually, I'm more interested in the
other services you did for Grossberg," he hedged.

Dorn frowned. "You mean the export? Ne, what a fucking hassle. I
told Grossberg it was my first and last, and I fucking meant it."


"Ja. It took me forever to find someone to take those two. All my

channels run the other way, you know? Would maybe be cheaper just
to kill them, I thought, but I got a good price in the end."

Gabriel's mouth was suddenly dry. "Those two what?"

"Wolves." Dorn tossed it away like it was nothing. He took a few

steps forward and spat into a drain. A greenish slime oozed over
the iron grating.

Gabriel looked away for a moment to hide his reaction. When he

looked back, his face was blank. "Huh. Um . . . where'd the wolves
end up?"

"Taiwan. A zoo, the buyer said, but I don't believe it. A

restaurant is more like it. Those people, they eat anything."

Gabriel ignored this show of liberal-mindedness, his mind still

stuck on simple comprehension. "There were two wolves, right?
Gray? A male and female?"
"Ja! I already said, I'm not doing any more fucking exports."

"Right," Gabriel said, trying to calm his hammering heart. "I was
actually more interested in the possibility of gettin' animals
live—whole. You did that for Grossberg too, didn't you?"

Dorn shrugged and prodded a booted toe at the gunk still hanging
on the drain. "It's all the same to me. Live. Dead. Skinned. Meat.
You have to bring your own cage. I don't deliver."

Something seemed to cross Dorn's mind, for he looked over at

Gabriel slyly. "Is that what you're into, Mr. Smith? Hunting?
Breeding maybe?" He leered.

"Huntin'. That's it." Gabriel restrained himself from throttling

the guy.

"Hunting, huh? I can pick out some mean ones for ya. Or weak ones.
Whatever you want. Panthers are good. I got a black panther right

"Really? That's sounds promisin'." Gabriel smiled. "Say, where'd

you keep those two wolves anyway?"

"Why are you so fucking interested in those wolves?"

Good question. Gabriel's writer's brain searched for the

appropriate line of dialogue while he pretended to be fighting a

"Ah!"—sniff—"Well, the guy who sold the wolves to Grossberg? He's

been claimin' Grossberg damaged 'em when he picked them up. He's
threatenin' to sue."

"They looked all right to me."

"Is that so? No wounds or anythin'?"

Dorn looked insulted. "Not a fucking mark on 'em."

"Good! That's good news. Would you mind if I, uh, checked the cage
they were in? See if I can spot any bloodstains or ... anything?"

Dorn's eyes shifted from Gabriel to the wall as he considered it.

Then he began to slouch down the aisle.

"You're fucking lucky I didn't clean the cage. Normally I clean

'em right out, but I didn't need it. I have a lot of capacity
here, you know. Sometimes I get in a couple hundred monkeys at a
time. This time of year is always slow."

"Yeah. It's a great setup you've got here."

Dorn stopped at a cage. He unlocked it and stepped back.

"Thanks," Gabriel said, smiling at him. "This might take a

Dorn grunted. He still looked leery, but after all, there was
nothing in the cage but straw and wolf scat. "I'll be over there,"
he said. He walked down the aisle and disappeared.

The cage was only four foot tall by five foot wide. Gabriel had to
stoop to get in it. Fortunately, the droppings in the cage had
dried up long ago. The straw and the scat crunched under his boot.

What the hell was he looking for anyway?

He toed around in the straw, his face contorted in a pained

expression. This was hardly fun, but if he could find a bit of
wolf hair it would be worth it. He could compare it to what he'd
gotten at the zoo— confirm what he already knew. He found some
strands over by the food dish. They were gray with white tips,
just like the ones from Margarite. He felt a flush of excitement.
This was turning out to be a far more productive line of inquiry
than he'd ever imagined. The zoo wolves had come through here! How
or why was another matter.

He picked up the hairs carefully and put them in his pocket.

He was about to climb out when a glint caught his eyes. There was
something silvery peeking out from under the straw near the bars.
It was probably just a metal drain, but Gabriel's curiosity got
the better of him. He pushed the straw back with his foot.

And stared. Lying on the floor under the straw was an ID tag. He
glanced in the direction of the aisle, but Dorn was nowhere in
sight. He grabbed the tag, held it into the light.
Parsival Tierpark Hellabrunn

Gabriel let out a low moan of exhilaration. He stuffed the tag

into his jean pocket, thinking that he needn't bother with the
hair after all. There was no doubt now. He shifted through the
straw some more, searching for the other tag. It wasn't there.

"Mr. Smith?" Dorn was standing outside the cage, shifting from
foot to foot and staring at the cage door.

Gabriel climbed out.

"Nope. No blood. Great. I can blow this guy off, then."

Dorn didn't look at him. "Did you want to see that panther? It's a
nice fucking panther."

"Sure," Gabriel said, figuring the priority at this point was to

get out alive. Humoring Dorn seemed wise.
As Gabriel left, he shook the man's hand and promised to send him
a check for fourteen thousand marks. He hoped Dorn ran to the
mailbox every day for a month.

They took von Glower's Land Rover to the lodge. Hennemann was
Gabriel's closest companion in the backseat. The politician—who
was as sober as Gabriel had ever seen him—rambled monotonously the
entire way. He told Gabriel that the lodge itself had fifty acres,
and it abutted national parkland on three sides. The property had
belonged to the Royal Bavarian Hunting Lodge for two hundred
years. This lodge, and the club's other lodge in Alfdorf.

And where is Alfdorf? Gabriel asked politely.

In the Swabisch-Frankischer Wold, Hennemann answered.

The Swiss Franconia Forest. Gabriel looked out the window at the
passing trees and said nothing.

They drove through forest for ten minutes before reaching the
property. The private road was gravel but in pristine condition.
They passed the gate and made their way through dense wilderness
on either side until finally, topping a rise, the lodge itself
came into view.

It was undeniably beautiful in an epic sort of way— enormous and

primitive, like a log cabin with a Mt. Olympus address. Despite
its rustic charm it had an ominous air that was almost certainly
lent by the darkness. The day was overcast, and the lodge and its
outbuildings were completely enshadowed by trees. Its facade was
dark anyway; logs still coated with bark formed the walls, the
roof was black as pitch, and the porch was pine stained some dark

"Voila gentlemen," von Glower announced as he pulled the car to a


"Yee-haw," Preiss said, giving Gabriel a sly look. Von Aigner

snorted derisively. Gabriel pretended he didn't get it.

He felt amazingly stupid unloading his beat-up duffel bag. Who'd

have guessed he'd be going on a camping trip with guys who shopped
Ralph Lauren?

"Come on, I'll show you up to your room," von Glower offered.

"Hope I'm not puttin' anybody out."

"No! There are more rooms than we've used for years. I called
ahead and had the maid prepare an extra."

Inside the foyer, Gabriel stared up at an enormous chandelier made

entirely of antlers. A fireplace the size of a small bedroom—
roasting spit included—dominated the great room. Indian blankets
adorned the pine walls. A large staircase split the room in two.
Gabriel slowly followed the others as they ascended.

Von Zell had driven his own convertible, and as the group entered
the upstairs hallway, Gabriel caught a glimpse of him swinging
shut his bedroom door most unwelcomingly. Gabriel made a mental
note of what room he was in. It would be a good place to avoid.

Von Glower opened a door just down from von Zell's. "I hope you'll
be comfortable. It's not the Ritz, but it's got character."

"It certainly does."

"There're extra blankets in the shrank if you need them. And

there's plenty of hot water, so take as long a shower as you

"It's great. When, uh, when ..."

Von Glower looked amused. "We go hunting tomorrow morning. This

time of year it's mostly deer."

"Yee-haw," Gabriel said dryly.

Von Glower laughed. "I've got some things to catch up on, but feel
free to look around. If you take a walk in the woods, it might
help you get your bearings for tomorrow."

"I will. Thanks."

Somehow it felt like he should change. But since he had nothing

with him but more jeans and T-shirts, there weren't a lot of
options. He wandered downstairs instead and saw that Hennemann and
the bar had already found each other.

"Herr Hennemann."

"Guten Abend."

"Oh, it's not that time yet."

"Close enough." Hennemann raised his beer glass in a toast.

Gabriel walked over and sat down nonchalantly. He wanted to look

around, but he'd yet to have a shot at Hennemann alone (the
cramped car hardly qualified), and there were things he still
needed to know.

"I've heard that you're quite the man to know," he began with a


"Politics. You're the man."

"Ah! Well, I'm not the man I used to be," Hennemann joked. There
was a bitter undertone to his quip.

Gabriel flattered him. "That's not what I hear!" Hennemann looked

pleased, but he didn't answer. "So! A politician, a lawyer, a
banker . . . It's about all the friends a guy could want, am I
right?" Gabriel nudged the older man with a knowing elbow.
Hennemann shot him a glance that said he was being incredibly

"Have you ever worked with Preiss, for example?"

Gabriel continued. "I hear he's quite a hot shot in court."

Hennemann grimaced. "If you need a lawyer, Herr Knight, Preiss is

the last person I'd recommend." Hennemann had lowered his voice,
and he glanced nervously toward the stairs.

"How so?"

"You met the man. Would you want to be alone in a room with him
for an hour?"

Gabriel considered it. "Not especially."

Hennemann's red-shot eyes glanced at Gabriel bale-fully. "He's a

goat. No respect for normal human decency. I tell you, society has
no interest in a man like that. It's a good thing he doesn't need
the money because no one will hire him." He looked at Gabriel's
empty hands. "Want a beer?"

"Not just now, thanks. But . . . isn't that what the club
philosophy is all about—gettin' in touch with one's primal
instincts? Bein' natural?"

Hennemann made a face. "Sure. But do you think animals are like
this? Rutting every ten seconds? Even apes have mating seasons,
Herr Knight."

Yeah? They also don't lap up alcohol by the gallon at the ol'
watering hole.

"Well, what about von Aigner? You guys hang, right?"

"Ja. Von Aigner's a good man. Klingmann too I like. He comes by

the Donisl and drinks with me."

"Really? You two are so different. What do ya find to talk about?"

"Oh, the club philosophy, mostly. Herr Doktor is very taken with

"Did, uh, did you sponsor Klingmann, then?" Gabriel asked with
forced casualness.
"Me? No! It was von Zell." Hennemann took a chug of beer and
smacked his lips noisily.

"Von Zell sponsored Klingmann?" Gabriel repeated blankly.

Hennemann nodded and burped quietly.

"See, I never would have thought that. They don't seem to get
along too well."

Hennemann tilted his head to consider it. "No, I suppose not too
well lately. It was better at first, though never . . . You know,
I always found it strange myself. Von Zell is not the friendliest
person. Ach! Who knows? Maybe he only wanted to shake things up."

"Could be," Gabriel said thoughtfully.

Hennemann finished his beer and immediately poured himself

another. "Are you ready now, Herr Knight?" He had a painfully
hopeful expression.

Gabriel got up. "Actually, I was gonna take a walk."

Hennemann's face betrayed his opinion of such an activity. But he

raised his glass and toasted a bon voyage.

The woods were chilly. There was still plenty of daylight left,
but the shadows of the trees made it feel like twilight and thus
gave the illusion that darkness was hanging just above, like a
blanket about to descend on a bed. It seeded an anxiety that night
would sneak up and catch the happy wanderer far from home. In the

Or perhaps it was just that Gabriel was no Daniel Boone. Nature to

him was the sprawling bougainvillea that leapt from Southern
balconies in May or the clematis that draped his grandmother's
porch with intolerable perfume. It meant going barefoot on the
asphalt on Bourbon Street in the sweet reprieve between chill and
molten tar. Pine needles—that was another story altogether.

But there were paths through the woods, clear, soft paths of dirt
so fine it looked like flour dusted from a sieve. Even a city boy
could follow a path like that (though they might not be prepared
for what they encountered upon it).

The path that began across the lawn from the front porch went
directly south. Fifteen minutes out, it intersected with a path
going east-west, and Gabriel turned left, hoping that he would
find a circular route back to the lodge.

The walk was quite bizarre. Perhaps it was the increased supply of
sharp, thick oxygen working like a drug on his smog-thickened
brain, but there was a strange quality to the woods unlike
anything he could recall having experienced before. It was the
trees, marching away forever as one's eye cut through the woods.
It was like some Escher illusion, trunk upon, trunk upon trunk
until your depth perception admitted defeat.

But it was precisely this quality—this ability to peer straight

through into an endless horizon of trees that, he realized, was
odd. Not being a forest person, it took time to realize this and
more time to realize the cause. The forest floor was amazingly
clean—not thick with dead brush and twigs and brambles as one
might expect—and the trees, most of them, had no limbs whatsoever
until twenty feet or more up, allowing the eye to continue on and
on, unhalted by walls of green boughs and bushes. And with the
late afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees in visible
beams ... It was like something from a storybook, these woods,
like something from Little Red Riding Hood.

He walked on, speeding up into a trot, looking out for another

north-south path that would take him back to the lodge. How far
had he come? Forty minutes at least—surely there was a quicker way
back to the lodge than turning around.

He began to get an uneasy sensation of being watched, a sensation

that reminded him of the one and only time he'd gone snorkeling.
There, in the silent water, with the sense of sound completely
removed, he'd felt peculiarly vulnerable, like a deaf person
standing on a road. His insubordinate imagination had called up
scenes from Jaws, and he'd spun around to look, certain that
something unbearable and deadly was headed his way, the ocean's
equivalent of a Mack truck.

His writer's imagination was like an overbuilt muscle, and as any

serious bodybuilder who's ever tried to buy a pair of pants could
tell you—it could be a damned nuisance.

It was being one right now.

He was jogging, something his out-of-shape lungs could not keep up

for long. He slipped a cold hand inside his shirt and pulled out
the talisman, hanging it outside his jacket, where it bounced with
each step. The woods were thickening on his right, and the ground
was beginning to undulate. He ran down into a ditch and nearly
slipped on some orange-colored mud. His thighs ached as his feet
pushed him up the rise on the other side.

And then, when he was beginning to think about turning around, he

ran into a north-south path. Ten minutes later, he was on the
front porch.

"Did you have a nice walk?" Hennemann asked as Gabriel came in the
door. His speech was already taking on that overcompensated
"Wunderbar," Gabriel choked. He turned his back to Hennemann to
remove his coat, tucking his talisman into his shirt as he did so.
His breath was coming in embarrassingly ragged gasps.

"Von Aigner was just down. He said if you came in, I was to invite
you to join him in his room."

Gabriel tried not to show his surprise. "What room would that be?"

"Across the hall from your room, Herr Knight. You want a beer

"I guess I do."

Gabriel took his stein and climbed the stairs, still trying to
slow his breathing and warm the ice water running in his veins.
There had been nothing in the woods, only his own febrile
juvenility, just as there had been nothing at the Huber farm the
other night. He rapped lightly on von Aigner's door.

"Kommen Sie!"

Gabriel was perplexed to see that the bedroom was empty, but then
he heard the sounds of splashing. "Von Aigner?"

"In here," came a voice from the bathroom.

"Sorry. I'll come back."

"No need. Make the door more open."

Gabriel pushed on the bathroom door. Von Aigner was sitting in a

tub full of hot water. On a chair next to him were a glass of
beer, a plate of cold cuts and cheeses, and a basket of rolls. He
was chewing busily, one meat-wrapped roll in his hand.

"You want?" he asked Gabriel, motioning to the plate.

"No, thanks." Gabriel raised his stein as though in explanation.

"Sit on the bed." Von Aigner pointed toward said object, which was
visible through the doorway. Gabriel complied.

"Von Zell doesn't like you," von Aigner said, chasing this
revelation with a loud and liquid belch.

"He doesn't? I'm hurt."

Von Aigner grunted. "You joke. I would be careful if I were you.

Tomorrow. On the hunt."

Von Aigner put down his roll and clenched his meaty hands into
fists, then made the unmistakable mimicry—one arm stretched—of a
rifle being pointed. Ka-blam.
"You're not suggestin' . . ."

Von Aigner picked up his roll and took a large bite, as though
he'd missed it. He shook his head, crumbs making an escape from
his beard to the water below.

"A friendly warning," he said with his mouth full. "Look out for
your back."

"You think von Zell is capable of murder?"

"He is capable of anything."

Gabriel took a drink of his beer, annoyed by the stupid lid that
bumped his nose. Von Aigner pieced together a second sandwich.

"Are you? Police?" von Aigner asked carefully.


The huge man—his stomach mounding out of the bath water like Nessy
on Loch Ness—grunted. "That's good."

"But I was wonderin' . . ."


"I ... well, this is embarrassin', but I kinda overheard you and
von Zell at the club. You mentioned that you'd given von Zell
Grossberg's name?"

Von Aigner wiped greasy fingers on his chest and stared at

Gabriel, his sandwich held in one hand like an unfinished thought.
"What big ears you have."

Gabriel smiled self-deprecatingly. "I don't blame you for not

admittin' it to me earlier. That you knew Grossberg, I mean. I've
run into him before, usually in connection with certain exotics."

Von Aigner's eyes narrowed. "You are police, then."

There was an anger behind his voice that was quite eerie. Gabriel
had a brief vision of the bulk that was von Aigner launching
itself from the tub and laying into him. Hell, just laying on him
would be fatal.

"Not at all," Gabriel said calmly. "Just a hunter. Like I said."

Von Aigner considered this as he took another bite and chewed.

"Grossberg got exotics for you also?"

"Not for me directly, no."

Von Aigner said nothing, his brow knit in thought.

"Why did von Zell want the name of your exotics contact? Do you

Von Aigner licked his fingers and ate the last bite of roll with
focused precision. "I thought he would maybe leave to make his own
club, or maybe hunt alone. I would cry no tears to see him go." He
picked up a loose piece of cheese. "You are more the international
hunter than you look like, Herr Knight. If you hunt exotics."

"Oh, I've hunted exotics, all right. Speaking of which, have you
ever heard of the Black Wolf?"

Von Aigner belched in a sustained note. "Ne. We've never hunted



"Though we could if we wanted to, and we would not need Grossberg

to do it."

Gabriel studied von Aigner leerily. "What do you mean?"

"They're all around here," von Aigner said, waving a hand toward
the window.


"Wolves," von Aigner said loudly and with much tongue, as though
Gabriel were hard of hearing.

Gabriel felt his heart trip in his chest. "You must be mistaken.
Wolves are extinct in Germany."

Von Aigner laughed. "Not here. I hear them at night myself all the
time. Arrrooooool" He stuffed a piece of Liebercase in his mouth
and chewed openly, grayish matter visible on his tongue. "Like to
make your blood go cold. Take my advice—don't go out there at
night. I never do."

Von Aigner went to wash down his mouthful and found the stein
empty. He looked extremely put out.

Gabriel headed straight for the room he'd seen Klingmann occupy.
He'd learned a lot in one day and, in a word, he was tired of
mucking about. He thought he now held the cards he needed to pin
the lying sack of scheifie to the wall, and he was more than
worked up enough to do it.

Gabriel found the good doctor lying on his bed, reading a

scholarly journal. Klingmann did not look pleased to see him.
"What is it, Mr. Knight?"

"Oh, just hangin' out. Nice lodge, huh?"

"Very nice. As I would expect."

"Have you been here before?"

"No. I'm sorry, but I would like to read."

"Oh, I don't mind."

Gabriel went over to the window. Outside, shadows were stretching

across the lawn as if in a race to see who could reach the woods
first. Gabriel stuck a hand in a pocket and brought something out.
He juggled it from hand to hand, leaning against the glass.

"Kinda surprised me that you were even in this club. Seems like
huntin' is an odd pastime for a zoologist."

"Animal behaviorist," Klingmann said stiffly. He looked a little

guilty nonetheless.

"Wouldn't you say?" Gabriel probed, turning brooding eyes toward

the bed.

Klingmann put down his journal in exasperation. "There are

reasons, Mr. Knight. The point is not to provide a carcass for the
family table, after all!"

"You're tryin' to get back to your primitive nature, then?"

"Yes," Klingmann said, surprised. His brow furrowed in irritation.

"What is that you're playing with?"

"What, this?" Gabriel tossed the object to Klingmann, who looked

all the more irritated as it went flying through the air. He
caught it with an annoyed sigh and looked at it.

In an instant his demeanor metamorphosed. His face lost its

arrogance in a horizontal swoop, like someone erasing a
blackboard. He seemed to have trouble catching his breath.

"Doc?" Gabriel said.

"Where did you get this?" Klingmann managed. He looked damn


Gabriel strolled over and sat on the edge of the bed. "In the
kennel of a black-market animal dealer."

"I don't understand."

"The wolves were shipped out. Adios, amigos. Deported."

Klingmann met his eyes reluctantly. "Where to?"



For a moment Klingmann said nothing; he just fingered the tag.

"I don't understand," he said again.

"Let me explain it," Gabriel said malignantly. "You wanted to get

into the club. Von Zell offered to sponsor you for a small favor.
He wanted two wolves. You helped him get them out of the zoo. Have
I got all that right?"

Klingmann's face was suffused with humiliation. Gabriel felt a

twinge of satisfaction at the sight. "If this information gets
out, my career will be finished."

Gabriel leaned in, his eyes relentless. "Then you'd better start

"I don't know anything about the killings!" Klingmann burst out.
"I swear! I was shocked when I read about the first one in the
paper! I went to von Zell. He said it was a fluke, a coincidence!
The wolves were fine, the wolves were under control, it couldn't
be my wolves."

Gabriel looked at the worm disdainfully. "It wasn't your wolves."

Klingmann studied him searchingly, as though trying to gauge the

truth of this. Relief flooded his face. "Are you certain? Thank
God! I didn't think so, but . . . Thank God!"

"It wasn't them." Gabriel plucked the tag from Klingmann's

fingers. "How'd you get them out of the zoo anyway?"

"Von Zell and some other man came late one night with a truck. I
let them in the service entrance. I ... I had drugged two of the
wolves earlier. It was simple enough to pick them up and put them
on the truck. The night boy, he was lazy. It took him forever to
do the rounds."

"Did von Zell tell you why he wanted the wolves?"

Klingmann lowered his eyes, the burn creeping across his forehead.
"He said he wanted to study them, that he had a kennel prepared.
He said he admired them, as I do."

He looked up, his eyes desperate. "I would never do such a thing,
but von Zell, he came to one of my lectures months ago. He—he
courted me, telling me about the club, the philosophy, the
prestige. So many of the ideas fit my own feelings. I had to get
in. Don't you see?"

Gabriel rose, not about to assuage Klingmann's guilt. "Thanks for

the talk."

"Herr Knight, can I... can I please keep the tag?"

Gabriel pretended to consider it. "Nope. Be seein' ya, Doc."

And he left Klingmann sitting there, journal forgotten.

He was shutting Klingmann's door when he heard a soft noise behind
him. He turned to see von Zell locking the door to his room.
Gabriel quickly stepped into the middle of the hall and pretended
he'd been passing through. Being caught coming out of Klingmann's
room was probably not a good idea. He didn't feel like taking any
of von Zell's abuse at the moment.

Von Zell turned slowly, his head cocked to one side.

"Hey, Baron von Zell."

Incomprehensibly, von Zell began to make oinking noises. He walked

slowly toward Gabriel, raking air in through his nostrils like
fingernails on a chalkboard: snort, snort, snort, snort, snort.

Gabriel backed away.

"This little piggy went to London," von Zell said, a rapt look on
his face.

"That's nice. I—"

"This little piggy went to Rome. Snort, snort."

Gabriel's back hit the wall. He stared at von Zell and thought,
Okay. I get it. He's absolutely mad. You can end the demonstration

"And this little piggy . . ." Von Zell stepped into Gabriel's face
and jabbed a finger at his chest, "went wee! wee! wee! all the way
home to America!"

Von Zell began to laugh uproariously. Gabriel stood there, at a

loss as to how to proceed. It occurred to him that escape was a
good idea. He tried to push his way along the wall. He took one
step, and von Zell stopped laughing abruptly and grabbed his shirt
with two hands, yanking him back.

"No, I've changed my mind. You're not like a pig at all, are you,
Hen Knight?"


"No. You're more like a cat. That's what you remind me of: a
sneaking, slinking, sly little cat."

Von Zells face was only inches away from Gabriel's, and his eyes
were so intense, Gabriel swore he could feel the heat of their

"I'm not really—"

"And I hate cats," von Zell interrupted. "I loathe them."

"Yeah. I get the point. Excuse me." Gabriel tried to sound both
bored and firm.

"No, we're not done here. I have one more thing to share with you,
Herr Knight, and that's a note about curiosity. You know what they
say about the cat and curiosity, don't you?"

"Urn . . . Something about winning the race?"

It was not the smartest move he'd made all day, but his tongue had
a way of spitting things out without notifying his brain. Von Zell
flushed and shoved Gabriel back against the wall with incredible
force. Gabriel wheezed as the breath was forced from his lungs.

"No! Think again!" Von Zell's anger was barely in check, looming
behind his eyes like thunderclouds. "I'm sure you'll remember it
if you try."

He gave Gabriel one more push, then retreated and walked quickly
down the stairs.

When Gabriel was certain von Zell was gone, he tried the door to
his room. Locked. He looked around the hall to make sure he was
alone, then squatted down to take a closer look—the door was
thick; the handle and lock looked formidable. Of course, he could
try picking it, but this wasn't exactly a place one could settle
down for some serious tinkering.

Anyway, he had a better idea. He knew he was behaving irrationally

even as he went into his own room, went to the window, moved aside
a chair, and propped back the curtain. He recalled this feeling
before, when it had been about Voodoo in New Orleans—that feeling
of plummeting ahead no matter the cost, irregardless of personal
danger, defiant. He was a teenage motorcycle rider going 100
M.P.H. down a country road, or a child whose mother says, "Don't
climb on those rocks," and the child turns right around and begins
to climb. But was it defiance really? Bravery? Or was it more of a
single-mindedness so focused that all obstacles are brushed off
the consciousness like a fly off a picnic table?

Back in New Orleans, when he'd felt himself plummeting this way
(out of control, really—yes, he was out of control), he could tell
himself that it was because it was personal; it was about his
nightmares, his love, his family, his destiny.

What the hell was his excuse this time?

He leaned out his window and saw what he'd seen from the outside
of the lodge—that the walls were made of rough-hewn logs: rounded,
grooved, tractable with bark. Why, it was practically a staircase
out there, at least compared to his grandmother's siding, which
he'd routinely scaled every Saturday night when he snuck from his
Von Zell's window was only fifteen feet away. It was open to let
in the air.

The side of the lodge was deep in shadow, lending stealth to his
endeavor. But the actual job of getting to von Zell's window was
much harder in fact than it had been in his head. The bark fell
away beneath his feet, and the crevasses between the logs had a
cement-like filling, allowing his desperate fingers only so far
inside. When he finally reached the window, he was cursing his
bright idea and quivering from the strain.

But he was about to have his revenge.

He crawled over the bottom of the sill and took a moment to catch
his breath, looking around. For the bedroom of a psychopath, the
room was stupefyingly uneventful. Von Zell's large leather
carpetbag was placed in a particular manner to one side of the
room's shrank, or armoire. The bed was tidy. Gabriel opened the
shrank. Yes, von Zell had unpacked, and his things were neatly
stacked or hung, including a killer pair of black leather riding

Gabriel searched the bed, checking under the pillows and dipping a
hand between the mattress and box springs. Nothing. He checked the
carpetbag. Empty. He checked the drawers in the nightstands next
to the bed. On the left-hand side were a watch, a small alarm
cock, and von Zell's black appointment book—the one he'd left in
the basement at the club.

Gabriel had already looked at the book once, but he picked it up

again. He knew a lot more now than he'd known then, including
whose book it was and how suspicious the son of a bitch had turned
out to be. He checked the calendar for the past months, but didn't
see any mention of picking up wolves, no mention of wolves at all.
But then von Zell would hardly jot that down next to his luncheon
and dental appointments.

He came to that page again, the one with the names and figures
Preiss—100,000 Aigner 1 m. 700,000 Henneraann—30,000

Loan amounts, no doubt. And the von Aigner figure—300,000 marks,

could it be? Had von Aigner really paid back such a large amount
recently? Or had von Zell given him an incentive to reveal
Grossberg's name?

He was about to put the book down when he saw a tip of a white
envelope sticking out of the back pages. He pulled it out. It was
addressed to von Zell— no return address. Inside was a single
sheet of paper. The short text was written in German, but Gabriel
recognized the words newspaper, wolves, zoo, and police. There was
also a figure: 500,000 DM. It was signed Grossberg.
"Son of a bitch," Gabriel said out loud. It was a blackmail
letter. Grossberg had known about the deliberate kidnapping of the
wolves; he had probably driven the truck. And when he'd seen the
killings in the papers, and the blame go to the wolves, he'd
decided he needed to be paid for his continued silence about their
true whereabouts.

So von Zell was the new "business partner" Grossberg had bragged
about to Dorn. It looked like von Zell thought otherwise. Do we
have a motive for Grossberg's murder, ladies and germs? Yes, I
believe we do.

Gabriel put the letter and the book back the way he'd found it. He
was about to leave when he decided to check the bathroom. The tub
and sink were both spotless. There was nothing in the medicine
cabinet. A small travel kit was on the back of the toilet—there
was nothing but the usual sundries in it.

As an afterthought, Gabriel pulled up the rug that lay in front of

the tub. The white tile floor was clean.

He gave the rug a quick scan, and something caught his eye. It was
a small Oriental rug, expensive by the look of it. Perhaps von
Zell had brought it from home—a little luxury to make the rustic
life all the sweeter. The pattern was a mix of colors, mostly reds
and blues.

But there was something out of place. A spot of brownish-orange.

Gabriel took it closer to the light and held the section up. Yes.
It wasn't yarn, it was a stain of ... He brushed one nail against
it, and a few dust motes puffed up. Dried mud. Dried orangey mud.

Gabriel studied it. It was a spot about three inches by two, and
it was darker in ridges. There was a pattern there. He frowned,
trying to discern it. It was hard to picture someone as neat as
von Zell wearing muddy boots into the bathroom. Besides, that
wasn't a boot print was it?

His imagination supplied an answer; he had a mental flash of von

Zell, naked and sweating, crawling in his bedroom window and
walking with bare, muddy feet into the bathroom, stepping into the

Yes, he recognized the pattern now—it wasn't a boot print, the

ridges were toes. It was a footprint— a bare footprint in orange

Von Zell was sitting in a corner of the great room absorbed—or at

least pretending to be—in a hunting magazine. Gabriel thought he
went unnoticed as he slipped outside. He was relieved to know von
Zell was inside and not, therefore, in the woods, particularly
since he had to go back out there.
Now it truly was getting dark. The sunset was happening somewhere
in the west, as indicated by the golden glow hanging over the
trees. The rest of the sky was turning a nice, solid indigo. He
grabbed a lantern and some matches from the barn and a pair of
thick gardening gloves while he was at it.

He took the short path still visible in the gathering twilight,

back to that dip in the woods, the place where he'd seen the
orange mud. When he reached the culvert, he lit the lantern, the
better to examine the ground. There was a trickle of water in the
bottom of the ditch, perhaps from some underground stream. He
followed it back into the woods, his legs spread to either side of
the stream, his head bent low. About ten yards back he saw what
looked like a shadow near a leaf. He brushed the leaf aside and
lowered the lantern.

In the mud was a huge paw print—identical to the one he'd found at
the Huber farm.

It was exactly what he'd been looking for, but he'd unconsciously
hoped not to find it. Indeed, he found himself quite unprepared.
He heard something rattling and actually swung around before
realizing that it was his teeth. He was shaking like a can of
paint in a mixer. What was it he'd just been thinking about being
recklessly brave and defiant?

He had to talk himself into continuing. It was true, he was in the

woods without a weapon and it was nearly dark. Yes, the Beast was
here. Somewhere. He even had an idea that it didn't like him very

But he did have the talisman. That would do something to protect

him. Wouldn't it?

He turned and continued down the culvert, his eyes still

searching. He found another print—a partial— near a rock farther
down. And then a third. This one was on the bank to the left, as
though entering the culvert. He looked up the side, raising the
lantern. There was a hill on that side, a good-sized hill, and it
was covered with brush. This part of the woods was quite wild and
had been allowed to stay that way.

He walked up the bank slowly. He put on the gloves to better push

aside the stickers and the brambles that clutched at him. He was
looking for some kind of a path here, a path not made by human
hands, and there did seem to be an opening, lower down, where the
bushes were not as thick.

He pushed his way through and came, after a few minutes, to the
side of the hill. There, in what was a small clearing in the
brambles, he saw an entrance to a cave.

And he knew he'd found the lair.

The cave entrance was only about four feet tall, so he had to
stoop low. It continued at this height for a while, perhaps ten
feet. It seemed a lot longer. Then the rock began to slope upward,
and the narrow passage opened into a small room.

He was still straightening up when the smell assaulted him—a

horrible smell, rank, musty, and unmistakable. It was the smell of
carrion—the sickly sweet smell of death.

He clasped his free hand to his nostrils, desperate to get away

from the tangible net of it. But he had to breathe. He inhaled
through his mouth reluctantly, feeling the odor like Teflon
coating his tongue, his throat.

"God!" he gasped, wanting desperately to retch, to turn around.

Instead, he raised the lantern and scanned the room, wanting to

finish so that he needn't come back. There was nothing in this
room but rocky outcroppings from floor, wall, and ceiling. But
there was another low passageway beyond. He would have to go on.

He fished in a pocket for a handkerchief and didn't find one (not

surprising since he never carried the things). He pulled out his
T-shirt instead and used the bottom hem of it to cover his nose
and mouth. He went into the second passageway.

This time the low channel continued on even longer, twenty feet
perhaps. And before it ended he began to hear the sound of a
watery drip up ahead.

When the ceiling sloped up again, he stepped into a large cavern.

It gave the illusion of vastness, anyway. It was absolutely pitch
black hi there, and the lantern itself seemed intimidated by the
smell, for the flame cowered down. He could see little but the
wide outward slant of the walls on either side of him, indicating
that they were broadening out to encircle a very large space. And
there was that sound, that dripping, which sounded loud and echoed
in the stillness.

What else was out there in the uncompromising dark? His sense of
repulsion over the smell faded as fear began to make such concerns
seem trivial. He scanned the darkness for the glow of eyes, but
nothing in the beyond separated itself from the dark. He fought to
slow his breathing, telling himself that whatever lived here was
currently back at the lodge. He took a few cautious steps forward.

The dirt beneath his feet gave way.

He was slipping, falling. He dropped the lantern and grabbed at

the ground under his hand. His right foot disappeared into
nothingness, but he managed to catch himself and scoot back on the
dirt. The lantern, thankfully, had not gone out. He picked it up
and held it out in front of him.
The light shone on the dirt, then black swallowed it up. He was on
the edge of some large rift. He crawled on hands and knees closer
to the edge, the smell coming in nearly visible waves now. He held
the lantern out with one unsteady hand, the other desperately
masking his nose. He looked down.

Below him was a deep pit, a hole, at least fifteen feet deep,
perhaps much deeper, and easily as wide. At first his mind
rebelled against identifying what his lantern danced off down
inside this hole, and he only saw jutting, broken edges; rotting,
darkened lumps; and scraps of stuff incongruously placed, like the
red-checked calico that wavered just inside the reach of his
flickering light. Then his eyes settled on a pattern of yellow
daisies on white just below him. The fabric was stretched over a
rounded mound of black straw, and below the straw were dark holes—
gaping and sunken in a ... Like an image snapping into focus, he
saw quite suddenly that he was looking at a face. The gay daisy
handkerchief was still atop the dun-colored hair, and the face was
decayed and shriveled. And then every form below defined itself in
the gloom—every lump and jutting limb, a shoe-clad foot, torn,
half-eaten haunches.

The pit was filled with rotting corpses.

It wasn't exactly a scream; it was more a cry of denial. The
lantern fell from his hand and landed with a dull wet thud on the
daisy-clad child below, then the flame went out. Moaning, he
scrambled backward on hands and knees in the absolute darkness. He
banged into unyielding rock and turned, felt with his hands, found
the opening.

He crawled, blind, through the long passageway and then into the
first room, where the entrance to the cave was illuminated softy
by the dying sunlight outside. He'd almost made it to the opening,
still crawling mindlessly, when his stomach caught up with his
brain and vomit filled his mouth. He turned to an outcropping near
the door and spewed.

In the dull light from the entrance, so seemingly bright after the
blackness of the inner cave, part of his mind saw in detail his
hand placed on the rock, fingers splayed, dustings of hair
disturbed by the movement wavering up for a moment, caressing his
skin. It saw this in an odd, surreal kind of clarity, almost like
a deja vu, while the rest of his mind and body were busy
elsewhere, expelling everything in his gut in an act of pure
terror and revulsion.

It was several minutes before he managed to propel himself, on

exhausted legs, through the mouth of the cave and stumble back
through the trees.
Lair. Lair. Lair.

His mind repeated the word over and over while he stumbled down
the path.

He'd found its lair.

He had flashes as he ran of the Beast—IT—coming down the same path

but from the opposite direction— from civilization to the lair,
its strong forelegs pushing steadily on, despite the fact that it
was dragging a human corpse in its jaws.

Why take the bodies there? Oh, why do you have such big teeth,
Grandmama? To eat, eat, eat.

Perhaps too to hide the evidence. But it's not hiding anymore.

He broke into the clearing at the lodge and went quickly inside.

"Are you ready for another beer yet, Herr Knight?" Hennemann
called out, his voice thick with drink. Von Aigner was downstairs
too, sitting at the bar, hogging the pretzel dish.

Gabriel wanted to scream or laugh. He swallowed it. "No. I h—have

to see Friedrich."

Von Aigner raised a curious eyebrow. "He's in his room. Upstairs."

Later, Gabriel was to wonder at his decision. Even at the time he

knew that it wasn't particularly wise. But he'd reached a point—
even if it wa& just for a brief reactionary moment—when the burden
was too great to shoulder alone. And there was von Glower, with
his shoulders broad enough to take on the world. Shoulders like
perhaps Wolfgang's might have been, had he lived, or even his
grandad's. Somehow, Gabriel knew that von Glower would loathe what
von Zell was doing as much as he did himself.

He was not wrong about that.

One look at Gabriel's face and von Glower jumped up from his desk.
"My God, what's happened?"

"In the woods . . ."

"Show me."

Von Glower put on a thick coat and insisted they stop at the barn
for lanterns and a rifle. He questioned Gabriel several times
about what he had seen, but Gabriel only shook his head. Although
the woods were dark now, he raced down the path unerringly. His
panic had ingrained its contours on him like a melody on vinyl.

When they reached the culvert, von Glower stopped him by tugging
on one arm.
"Gabriel, what is it? Did you see an animal? A bear?"

Gabriel shook his head. "There's a cave," he said, trying to catch

his breath.

"A cave?" Von Glower sounded doubtful.

"This way."

Gabriel walked back along the culvert and pushed through the
brambles. Soon, they were both at the cave entrance. Von Glower
looked baffled.

"Go in," Gabriel said, having no intention of going in himself.

"It's in the second room. Be careful— there's a ... a drop."

Von Glower's dark eyes looked worriedly at Gabriel, and he nodded.

He stood for a long moment, staring at the entrance, as though he
really did not want to go inside. Gabriel recognized the fear, but
was surprised to see it in von Glower. It was a momentary lapse;
he soon stooped low to crawl in through the opening, his lantern
held in front of him. Gabriel waited, pacing outside.

Von Glower emerged from the cave ten long minutes later. When he
came out, he looked paler, more stricken and ill than Gabriel
himself had been.

"My God," he said, his chin trembling with shock.

"It's von Zell," Gabriel said bitterly.

Von Glower looked at him sharply. "Von Zell?"

"He's . . . he's a—"

Von Glower grabbed his arm. "He's a what, Gabriel?"

Gabriel swallowed. "He's a werewolf."

He waited, expecting von Glower to laugh, but he just stood there,

studying Gabriel with those worried, dark eyes, his brow furrowed
in thought.

"I think you'd better explain," he said gently.

And so Gabriel did. He explained about looking into the wolf

killings for the Hubers, about being suspicious of Klingmann and
following him to the club. Von Glower seemed to take this in
without much anger or surprise.

"Here's what I think happened," Gabriel said. "Von Zell got caught
up in this philosophy of yours. Maybe at first he only thought he
was a wolf. But he must have had some kind of ... I don't know . .
. genetic code—maybe a werewolf way back in the family tree
somewhere—that allowed to him to actually physically change once
his mind got worked up enough by the philosophy and the hunting to
trigger it. Anyway, he changes now, that's certain. The killer
isn't a wolf or a dog and certainly not human; it's some huge wolf

"What about the zoo wolves? The newspapers say—"

"It was a setup by von Zell. He must have been killin' around here
for a long time, and at your other lodge in Alfdorf. He'd grab
people when they were alone and drag them back to the cave. But
for some reason—maybe he's just gettin' more and more insane—he
got tired of being subtle. He decided he wanted to kill closer to
home, not have to dispose of the bodies, maybe even spread some
terror. But he didn't want to be caught, so he cooked up a scheme
to let two wolves out of the Munich zoo—wolves the killin's could
be blamed on. He seduced Klingmann into wantin' to join the club
to get his help in kid-nappin' them."

Von Glower said nothing, but his handsome face was etched with

"But then he had to get rid of the wolves," Gabriel continued. "So
he offered to reduce von Aigner's debt for the name of your black-
market animal dealer. It was a guy named Grossberg. He helped von
Zell get rid of the wolves. But Grossberg tried to blackmail von
Zell. Von Zell killed him just blocks from the club. He must have
arranged a meeting and then . . . changed before keeping it."

"This is incredible."

"I know."

Von Glower paced anxiously. "It's difficult to believe there's an

actual transformation, but as for the rest of it ... I've seen his
savagery in hunting. With the way he's been acting, I'm not
surprised that he's turned that rage on other human beings."

"There's an actual transformation, all right. I have samples of

hair and a paw print."

Hair. Wasn't there more hair in the lair? Yes. He'd seen some. He
could go back in now and get it to show to von Glower, but the
thought of entering the lair was hideous. He decided not to
mention it.

"How curious," von Glower said, soft and low.

"We have to ... to kill him," Gabriel said, suddenly worried that
von Glower would want to study the process rather than end it.

Von Glower nodded solemnly. "Yes. I agree."

Gabriel bit his lip. "I don't think the police would believe me."
Von Glower let out a breathy laugh. 'Wo. No, they would not." He
drew himself taller. He seemed to have reached some kind of
decision, and now the von Glower that Gabriel had so admired was
back. He had assimilated the situation, and he was more than ready
to act.

"It's not their concern anyway," he said. "This thing belongs to

you and I."

Gabriel nodded slowly.

"You, you have a stake in this for the Hubers. As for myself, I
feel responsible. I obviously chose even my chosen few very

He smiled a sad, ironic smile and placed a hand on Gabriel's

shoulder. "We'll hunt him tonight."

They'd agreed to meet at the stables at midnight. The rest of the

men would be asleep by then, von Glower explained, and their
interference was one thing they didn't need.

How do you know he'll be out? Gabriel had asked.

It's our first night here. If he's what you say, don't you think
he'll want to be out?

Yeah. Gabriel thought he would. The question was, did Gabriel

himself really want to be out? Answer: no.

Now that it had come down to this, now that the chase was over and
the knife was put in his hand, he found himself much less
enthusiastic about his role. Had his ancestors enjoyed it? The
killing part? He could still remember Malia, hanging over that
fiery chasm. Whatever his commitment, whatever was right and
wrong, he'd die before putting himself through that again.

But this wasn't Malia. This was grade-A asshole von Zell, and he
was eating people. Somebody had to stop it.

The stables were aglow with lantern light when Gabriel arrived.
Von Glower was saddling a horse.

"What rough beast slouches toward the hunt, its prey to be

undone?" he said darkly as Gabriel walked up.

"What's that 'sposed to mean?"

"Just a little hunting joie de vivre to get you in the mood."

"It didn't work," Gabriel said, eyeing the horses with

apprehension. "We're not ridin', are we?"
"Yes. We'll be safer on horseback. The horses will let us know
when he's close. Plus, we can move much faster if we have to chase

"Right. This is, um ... we don't ride much in New Orleans."

Von Glower looked up at him, surprised. "Oh. I didn't realize . .

." He tightened the saddle's buckle on the horse's underbelly.
"Well, just hang on. Let the horse know who's boss. You'll be

Von Glower offered him a hand up. Gabriel reluctantly put one
booted toe in the saddle and pulled himself upward. He found
himself sitting on the horse. In truth, he'd never been on a horse
in his life. It was a lot higher up than he'd imagined, and his
legs didn't particularly care for the spread forced by the horse's
broad back. His inner thighs began to itch. The horse whinnied
uneasily, obviously not any more happy about the pairing than he

Von Glower grabbed a rifle from a table nearby and held it out.
Gabriel looked at it. He wanted to take it, but there was no
fucking way he was going to go on his first ever horseback ride—
through the woods, in the dark—while holding a loaded rifle.

"Think I'll pass," he said dryly.

Von Glower frowned, and Gabriel felt his stomach twist in

embarrassment. No doubt his obvious lack of skill would be grating
on a man like von Glower, a man who could probably gallop bareback
while shooting at a target a hundred yards away.

"Then you'd better stay close to me, Gabriel." Von Glower laid a
hand on his leg to press home the point. "And close to the gun."

They rode out across the lawn and into the woods, their way lit by
powerful torch flashlights that von Glower had attached to the
saddles. Gabriel was alarmed at the bounce involved in this riding
business and how it threatened to unbalance him with every step.
He watched Von Glower's back—starkly lit by Gabriel's torch—and
tried to mimic his posture. He saw von Glower reach up to mess
with his hair on the right side, then on the left, putting it
behind his ears, it looked like. He was completely at ease in the

The plan was simple. Farther down the right-hand path from the
lodge, just past the point where Gabriel had turned left earlier
that day, there was a ravine. They were to push von Zell toward
the ravine, using the horses. There, with his back to the chasm,
he would be cornered and could be shot.

Gabriel felt less comfortable with this path than he did with the
one he'd taken to and from the cave several times. It was odd how
things grew on you so quickly, and how disconcerting it could be
when they were unfamiliar. The way his higher position seemed to
place him within grasp of the trees didn't help.

Somewhere in the distance he heard a howl.

It was a sound so eerily human yet so utterly Other that it made

the hackles on his neck rise. Every instinct bade him to turn
around and go back the way he had come, perhaps bar himself into
the stable.

He hissed loudly, "Friedrich!" just to hear some human sound, to

say "did you hear that?," but von Glower was getting farther
ahead, and he didn't turn around.

Gabriel's horse, on the other hand, was more than prepared to

acknowledge the howl. It had slowed and now it stopped nervously,
taking reluctant steps forward, as if unsure what was less
horrifying—to lose sight of its mate or to continue on toward that

"Come on!" Gabriel pushed his knees into the horse's sides. "Go!

At this, the horse came to a complete standstill.

"Friedrich!" Gabriel called out, raising his voice full tilt now,
but the baron was melding unheedingly into the shadows up ahead,
unhearing, and now he was gone.

"Shit!" Gabriel slapped the reins down on the horse's neck. At

that moment the howl came again, and the horse came to its own
conclusions about the safety of the stable. It reared a bit and
then quickly turned around on the path and began to gallop back
the way it had come.

Gabriel managed to stay on through the turn, but he was canted to

the left, and when the horse lurched forward to run, Gabriel went
sprawling to the side and smacked straight into a tree.

He was not knocked out or even stunned. No, he was fully conscious
as he heard the sound of the horse's hooves fading into the
distance. He stood up painfully. "Shit!"

He was left in utter darkness. The horse was gone, as was the
flashlight. Von Glower too was gone, along with the gun. Yes, this
was going rather well.

But as his eyes forgot the brightness of the flashlight, they

began to acknowledge the lesser glow of a three-quarter moon
hanging over the woods. If he looked straight up he could see it,
off to the left. He looked in one direction and then the other on
the path, trying to decide what to do. He thought it likely that
von Glower would soon realize he was gone and come back. The
stable, on the other hand, seemed way too far away. He began
walking toward the ravine.

He heard the howl again, and this time it sounded close, perhaps
two hundred yards away. He had put the talisman on over his shirt,
but this no longer seemed enough. He pulled the chain over his
head and wrapped it around his hand. He held the medallion out
ahead of him like some kind of cross on a Dracula hunt, his teeth

Now there was silence in the woods. Now there was no howling. And
yet something inside him, imagination perhaps, told him the Beast
was close, perhaps hidden just behind the trees to one side of the
path or the other. He began to feel that strange underwater
feeling again, that desire to swing around, certain the thing was
sneaking up behind him. Would the talisman have any power at all
if the thing jumped him from behind? Would it have power anyway?

And then, when he thought he couldn't get any more afraid, the
Beast stepped out onto the path. It stepped out, stood there, and
growled at him, growled low in its throat, its fangs bared and
dripping saliva.

"Ohmigod," Gabriel said. Pure terror washed over him, like a wave
inundating a small boat. It threatened to incapacitate him, this
absolute fear, fear of what he saw standing there in the

Frau Huber had been right—the Beast wasn't a wolf. It didn't look
like the wolves at the zoo at all. They had long, graceful legs,
and this thing was shortened—its legs squat and meaty. And its
hair was thick and wiry, springing up and out in a disconnected
chaos that seemed to glow an earthy red in the moonlight. But the
head was the worst—large and oddly square, with a short, brutish
snout and teeth that were long and pointed and overstuffed along
the gums. These teeth had only one purpose—to rip, to render, to

The growl was low, rumbling, black as pitch, demonic. It grew in

intensity as the thing crouched.

Gabriel thrust the talisman forward, certain that he was

experiencing his last few seconds of life—his last sight, this
hideous Beast's crouching spring. The thing's growl softened to a
whimper as the medallion was thrust forward. It backed away!

At first Gabriel merely watched this with overwhelming relief.

Then he saw the Beast's eyes dart sideways into the woods. It was
going to turn off the path.


He stepped forward, thrusting the talisman again. It wasn't

because he felt like pursuing the creature; it was because he
couldn't stand the thought of that thing gaining cover in the
woods, becoming invisible. The move worked. The Best, von Zell,
whimpered again and backed up on the path.

And Gabriel walked the creature down the path, step by step—
thrust, step, with it backing up in front of him. He wondered,
Where the hell is von Glower? And then, Where the fuck is that

They passed the east-west path on their left. But where was von
Glower? Why didn't he come riding in and shoot the damn thing?

When he was certain they must be at the ravine at any moment, the
Beast, perhaps, felt it too. Yes, it would know these woods. It
seemed to gather itself together, and when Gabriel thrust the
talisman, it made a kind of yelping cry, but it didn't back up.
Instead, it leapt off the path to the right and ran away.

"Shit!" Gabriel said. "Shit!"

He was covered with perspiration. His legs threatened to give way—

the muscles jiggling like a Jell-O mold in an earthquake. He
hadn't realized how tense he'd been, how terrified. He'd had the
Beast in check for a good five minutes. Where the hell was von
Glower with the gun?
At the ravine.

He moved forward down the path, exhausted. Within a few moments

the path opened up and ended in a small clearing surrounded by
rock. Up ahead in the moonlight he could see the end of the woods
there, the cliff edge that fell away. Somewhere down below he
could hear a running stream. There was no sign of von Glower.

He lowered the talisman wearily. "Damn it!"

It was then that he was struck from above. Something that felt
like a wrecking ball swung into him. Its momentum sent him
sprawling to the ground. The talisman flew from his hand like a
shot put just about the time he realized that what had struck him
was the Beast. It had leaped on him from the rocks above, and it
had succeeded in its gambit.

He no longer had the talisman.

He screamed in pain and revulsion as the Beast bit, hard, into his
left thigh. He thought for a moment that the bone would snap in
two, such was the torque on the creature's jaws. The pain burst
upon him hot and wild. He screamed again.

Then he heard the sound of a horse at full gallop. Von Glower

pounded into the clearing and reared his mount to a stop. The
Beast let go of Gabriel's leg and backed up, confused and
startled. Gabriel sat on the ground and looked at the creature a
few feet away, its muzzle thick with his blood. Then he looked up
at the man on the horse.

Von Glower took in Gabriel's wound. He too looked at the wolf, his
large, dark eyes meeting the red feral ones below.

"Shoot it!" Gabriel screamed, the words pouring forth of their own
accord. "Kill it, goddamn it!"

But von Glower just sat there, reins in one hand, rifle in the
other. The Beast crouched low, backed up a step. It swung its head
from Gabriel to von Glower, its throat issuing a never ending

Its eyes. Its eyes were human.

"Kill it!" Gabriel screamed again, unable to comprehend von

Glower's inaction.

"You must do it!" von Glower said, snapping out of his daze. He
tossed the rifle through the air.

Gabriel was so shocked that for a moment he didn't move. Then,

powered by some survivor's instinct, he reached up one hand and
caught the rifle. It was not a move he could have done with any
number of practice rounds. He simply did it now. He looked at von
Glower disbelievingly.

"Shoot it!" von Glower cried.

Now the Beast, the wolf-thing, snarled in absolute rage. Gabriel

never even had time to stand. The thing tensed its legs and leaped
into the air, directly at Gabriel.

He saw its underbelly, white and thick in the moonlight. The gun
was already pointed awkwardly upward. He tilted it slightly and
pulled the trigger.

The creature fell to the ground, a dull, dead weight. Jt landed at

Gabriel's feet, and he scrambled backward on his hands and butt,
expecting the thing to bite him again, but it didn't.

Von Glower dismounted and turned his back to Gabriel, messed with
something at the saddle. Gabriel looked back and forth between him
and the wolf. He tried to stand up, but his left leg screamed in

"Let me help you," von Glower said. And then he was there, warm
and strong. He grasped Gabriel around the chest and pulled him
upright onto his good right leg. Gabriel dropped the rifle,
feeling weak and nauseated now from the pain, from the aftermath.
They both stood and watched, mesmerized, as the Beast's hair
retreated into its body, as the thick legs and torso turned pink,
as the head reshaped itself.

Finally, von Zell lay there, naked, a gaping wound in his chest.

"Poor von Zell, You got him right in the heart," von Glower said
with a mix of regret and amazement.

"Dumb luck," Gabriel replied, his tongue numb from shock.

"Fate," von Glower said.

Gabriel looked up at him vacantly. "Fate? Fuck that. I should be

dead. Why didn't you shoot?"

Von Glower didn't answer. Instead, he bent down to look at

Gabriel's leg. He gently pulled the ripped pant material aside.
"It's a nasty wound."

"Ouchl Yeah. It bit me."

The words came out of his mouth without thought, but the second
they hit the air, he heard them, really heard them, and realized
what they meant.

"God! Oh, my God! It bit me! Fuck! Fuck!"

He tried to step back, panicked, but von Glower held him steady.
"It's all right, Gabriel!"

"No! It bit me! I ..." And then he realized that it was all right.
He expelled a huge breath. "Christ! You made me shoot him! Thank
God you made me shoot him! I killed him and broke the curse. I'm
all right."

"You'll be fine."

"But how'd you know? How'd you know that I had to shoot him?"
Gabriel looked at his rescuer, his face as blank and wondering as
a child's.

Von Glower smiled shakily. "I don't know. Instinct, I guess. I saw
the wound and . . . It's part of the lore, isn't it? I must have
seen it in a film."

"Jesus! Do you think we should . . . should we burn it, or ... ?"

"I'll take care of it." Von Glower stood and draped Gabriel's arm
over his shoulder. "But first, let's get you back to the lodge
before you pass out. You've done enough for one night."

Gabriel allowed himself to be put on the horse. Von Glower was

gentle, and Gabriel perhaps should have been more grateful or at
least aware, but he was too distracted by the body of von Zell. He
allowed himself to be fussed over, unconsciously, as though he'd
been born to it.

He was busy thinking about how, now that von Zell was dead, naked
and dead, he didn't look quite so much like a grade-A asshole. He
looked rather pitiful really, wretched and sad and brutalized.

It was only the Schattenjager's second kill, after all. Gabriel

continued to stare at the corpse as von Glower led him away. He
stared until the white of the flesh had been completely swallowed
by the darkness.

Chapter 6
Starnberger See

The morning was cold and overcast with an insistent light drizzle
that came and went as frequently and as suddenly as a five-year-
old running in and out of the house. Grace had planned to arrive
early because she wanted a few moments alone. Even so, she had
underestimated the impact of the place.

From the parking lot a path headed north along a fence and through
a wooded area. It ended at a chapel, a memorial chapel for Ludwig,
that was locked with no signs of life. She walked around the
building and found that it overlooked a cross, farther down, and
then the lake itself. She walked down the grassy hill slowly, the
water already mesmerizing her. The only sounds were that of birds
and of the water gently lapping.

There was a sign at the cross, but she didn't read it; she knew
what it would say. It was the water itself that drew her on. She
did not hesitate, but climbed easily through an iron rail fence
that protected the small beach from the tourist rabble. She walked
to the water's edge and stared down into the greenish-gray water,
watching it lick the rocky sand.

He died right here.

She shivered and drew her coat more tightly around her. She'd seen
a postcard from the 1890s in the museum; it showed the king lying
among the reeds at the bottom of the lake, an angel hovering
overhead, looking at the viewer and placing a silencing finger to
her lips. Don't speak of this, the label had said. And this was
what she pictured now, Ludwig lying just under the water, eyes
open, hair waving in the current . . .


She jumped, startled, and turned to see an elegant-looking blond

man in a long woollen coat.
"Sorry. Josef Dallmeier here. Are you Grace?"

"Yes. Hello."

She reached out and they shook hands through the fence. "It's this
place," he said. "I really feel him here."

"I know what you mean."

"There's a bench over there if you like." Dallmeier inclined his

head down the fence. Grace blushed at her trespassing and climbed
carefully back under the rail.

"It was very nice of you to meet me."

"No problem. I love talking about Ludwig. My partner gets sick of


"Well, you've found a very open ear, Herr Dallmeier."

"Josef, please."

They sat down on the wooden bench. Dallmeier put his hands in his
coat pockets and propped out his long legs. He was very thin, with
a delicate long nose and a small, freckled mouth.

"I found your Black Wolf," he said pleasantly.

Grace nearly fell off the seat. "Really? Where?"

"He was an associate of Bismarck's. Did you bring that letter, by

any chance?"

She gave it to him. He devoured it like a missive from his dearest

love. He looked the envelope over carefully. "This looks

"Oh, it is."

"You found it where?"

"I'm staying at the Ritter family castle in Ritters-berg. It was

in ... uh, inside a book in the library."

"It looks like it was never sent."

"That's what I thought."

Dallmeier read the letter again. "I don't understand. Was this
Christian Ritter in law enforcement or . . ."

Grace smiled tentatively. "Sort of. What did you learn about the
Black Wolf?"

"Of course. Sorry. Actually, I'd read about him before, but I
didn't realize that was who you meant. His name was Paul Gowden. I
found a reference to his having the nickname 'the Black Wolf after
you telephoned."

Grace's brow knit in disappointment. She'd been expecting . . .

what, exactly? "Paul Gowden? Who was he?"

"Gowden lived on the fringes of the Prussian court," Dallmeier

said, sitting up attentively. "He wasn't titled, but he liked to
put on airs. By all accounts he was handsome, charming, even
dangerous. Since you brought him up, I dug a little deeper. I
think I've found some things that are probably true. It's said he
came from abroad in the mid 1800s but claimed high German blood.
Supposedly, his family's title and lands were lost in some
catastrophe or another."

"Do you know where he came from exactly?"

"No. He was also said to be ruthlessly ambitious. Gowden probably

found out who held the power in the Prussian court—Bismarck—and
offered his services. Bismarck no doubt used him. He knew talent
when he saw it—of that sort, anyway. And if this letter is
accurate, and Gowden really was close to Ludwig . .."

Dallmeier looked at the letter again. He had the distracted

anticipation of a scholar smelling a major paper, maybe even a
book. As for Grace, she wasn't sure what to make of it.

"What about 'Louis'?" she asked. "Didn't Ludwig have a paramour

called Louis?"

Dallmeier looked at her sharply. "Yes. Maybe even several. Anyway,

there are a few different references to a Louis, but none have
ever been identified for certain. Ludwig's penchant for renaming
people confounds most searches. Maybe he even meant for it to."

Grace bit a nail worriedly. "Hmmm. Is there anything else about


But Dallmeier seemed agitated, as though she'd sent his mind down
a path he'd not hitherto seen. "Hmmm? Oh. Well, there's this:
whatever Gowden did for Bismarck, it must have been something
remarkable. Bismarck was not a generous man. He liked to string
people along with promises but rarely came through. He did for
Gowden, though. He gave him a royal title and lands in 1871."

Grace was watching Dallmeier, her thumb still poised at her mouth.
"Then what?"

Dallmeier shook his head, irked. "I don't know. That's the last
reference I found."

"But he couldn't have just disappeared!"

Dallmeier smiled tightly. "Maybe he did just that. In those days,
if you suddenly were granted title or lands, you might move away
and change your name. That way you could act like you were born to
it, and no one would know better. Gowden was arrogant enough to
want that kind of freedom."

Grace thought about it. "If Gowden did change his name or move
away, isn't there a way to track that down?"

Dallmeier was nudged from his own brooding interest by the

insistence in her voice. He raised a brow at her, bemused. "You're
very determined."

Grace glowered menacingly. "Deadly determined."

Dallmeier smiled. "Well, let's see ... A copy of the entitlement

deed would tell you his new official name and title. Assuming the
document wasn't lost or destroyed in a war, that is."

"How would I go about getting that?" Grace pulled a notepad and

pencil out of her purse and waited expectantly.

Dallmeier sighed. "If it is that important to you, why don't I

look? I know the bureaucracy—and the language."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. You wouldn't believe the red tape in German government. Just
remember, the records could be long gone."

"I understand." Grace smiled gratefully, but her stomach was tied
in knots. There was something in all this that was extremely
troubling. Could Gowden, a.k.a. the Black Wolf, really have been a
werewolf? Or had Christian Ritter been mistaken?

"Was there anything else you wanted to know?" Dallmeier asked.

"As a matter of fact . . . Have you ever thought about contacting

Chaphill about the diary?"

Dallmeier looked doubtful. "No. His book was written, what, thirty
years ago? He's British, I think."

"Sounds like it."

"To tell you the truth, that book made me so angry, I never even
finished it."

Grace studied Dallmeier. "Because it said Ludwig was gay?"

"No!" Dallmeier scoffed.

"Was he?"
Dallmeier took a long sigh and slouched down on the bench again,
planted both feet carefully. "Yes. That's the simple answer. Oh,
some of our stodgiest historians still deny it, but it's pretty
much common knowledge."

"But there were women."

"There were women, especially when he was younger. But as he grew

older, he became more true to his stripe, as they say."

Grace was disappointed for some reason, as though she'd lost him
herself. It was ridiculous. The man lived in another time.

"So what makes you angry about Chaphill?" she asked.

Dallmeier grunted. "He implies—no, more than implies, he states—

that it was Ludwig's homosexuality that drove him insane, made him
a recluse. He might as well have said he grew hair on his palms!"

Grace looked away toward the lake, blushing. She knew, of course,
to what he referred, but it struck an altogether different chord
for her.

"The diary entries," she said, "All the oath taking."

"Exactly! Since Chaphill that seems to be pretty much the standard

interpretation, and it really ... it really . . . Bah! I don't
like it."

"You don't think the diaries were about Ludwig being gay?"

"No." He paused, then exploded passionately. "Ludwig was no prude!

He loved Byron and the French court! He understood his feelings,
and I don't think he was ashamed of them."

Grace was watching him silently. It was occurring to her that this
was a personal crusade.

"You have to understand the man!" Dallmeier went on. "He didn't
care what anybody thought—about anything! If he didn't care that
they complained about his spending a fortune on those castles, why
should their narrow-mindedness about sexuality make him feel
guilty? No, all evidence is that he pursued exactly whom and
whatever he wanted to pursue. If he was tormented, that's not what
did it."

Grace thought about this for a while as they watched the lake in

"What about the hunting accident?" she asked.

Dallmeier exhaled a calming breath. "It was a major turning point.

I know this great old man—Stephan Horning. His grandfather was
Richard Horning, Ludwig's equestrian. He told me that Ludwig
started to go mad after the accident."
Grace bit her lip anxiously. "Do you know what happened, exactly?"

Dallmeier shrugged. "Ludwig fell off his horse and seriously

injured his leg. He never really got over it. Maybe Horning would
know more."

"Do you think I could speak with him?"

Dallmeier grunted as though no longer surprised at her

tenaciousness. "Perhaps, Grace. He's a friendly old man. I will
call him for you if you like."

They sat there for a moment longer. The lake beckoned, encouraged
contemplation, but Grace knew she didn't have the luxury.

"Say, do you think I might see Horning today?" she asked brightly.

Dallmeier looked at her, one eyebrow cocked in surprise. "And I

suppose you want me to get right to that entitlement deed as

Grace cracked what she hoped was an encouraging smile. "I'm

Japanese. We have this thing about perpetual motion."

"What a slave driver!" Dalmeier growled. "All right, Miss

Nakimura. Let us say good-bye to the spirit of Ludwig and depart."

While Grace waited at Schloss Ritter for Dallmeier's call, she

decided to follow up on another idea. She telephoned the
publishers of Chaphill's book. They informed her that Sir Richmond
Chaphill was deceased, but they gave her a phone number for his
son in England.

Thomas Chaphill was pleased enough to hear from a fan of his

father's work. At first.

"I understand your father was allowed to see Ludwig's diary,"

Grace said after she'd buttered him up a bit.

"Yes. Of course, I was quite young then, but I remember him being
very excited. You see, the London Chaphills are related to the
Wittelsbach family by marriage."

"I see."

"So my father pulled some familial strings, you might say."

Chaphill laughed nasally.

"Did he make a copy of it by any chance?"

"Heavens! I shouldn't think so."

"What about notes? Did he takes notes perhaps?"

Chaphill was silent for a moment. "Ah! Yes, I remember now. I
believe he did translate it. Into English, just for himself. I
remember he had pages and pages of these notes. I take it Ludwig's
handwriting made the German quite impossible to work with."

"He transcribed it?" Grace said, astonished. "Do you know what
happened to his version?"

"My goodness!" Chaphill said, dismayed by her passion. "No, I

don't, really. When he passed on, we put his papers away. They're
probably still up in the attic, but whether or not they included
that ..."

Grace squeezed her eyes shut. Chaphill sounded not only

uninterested, but he was starting to sound a little offended as

"I know this must sound very odd, but this is so critical, Sir

"Well, I do apologize," Chaphill said coolly. "But even if I did

search for the document, and even if I could find it, I really
don't think it would be proper to let it out of my possession. My
father was entrusted with that diary under strict guidelines. If
he'd been permitted to publish it or pass it around, he would
have, Miss Nakimura."

"I have no interest in publishing it, believe me. This is a

strictly personal matter. I give you my word."

"I'm afraid I can't help you. You'll have to apply to the proper
authorities in Germany."

Grace went downstairs, feeling pouty, and complained to Gerde for

a while. Gerde was sympathetic, but in the end she only smiled
enigmatically and said, "If you really need the diary, you'll find
a way."

In other words, she wasn't a lot of help. Fortunately, Dallmeier

called with better news. He'd arranged an interview with Homing.

Homing's farm was near Halblech, forty-five minutes north of

Neuschwanstein. Grace didn't mind the drive. If she'd had all the
time in the world, in fact, she would be enjoying this immensely—
driving around the most intimate places of Bavaria, looking into a
historical mystery ... It was as close to an ideal job description
as she could imagine.

If only she didn't feel the clock ticking so loudly. She thought
at first that she was being driven by her own ambition, by her
need to get something meaty and tangible to lay down in front of
Gabriel—to show her worth. But when the feeling only grew, she
began to suspect that there was more to it than that, that there
was something major at stake, as Mrs. Smith had implied—and not
just on Gabriel's end of the equation.

The farm was old but immaculately kept, the fields covered with
the finest green dusting of some early crop. The house was large
and freshly made up with dark pine window shutters and boxes
filled with orange and purple crocuses. Horning himself sat out in
the yard, puffing on a pipe. He was old, in his seventies at
least, but he looked fit with his ruddy face and thick white hair.
He sported worn lederhosen, a white shirt, and a thick wool coat
and feathered hat. Grace wondered if he'd done the traditional
thing for her, then decided that he looked too comfortable in it.

She pulled into the driveway and waved. The old man raised his
pipe to her. As she climbed from the car, he called toward the
house in German. A beautiful young blond girl came out in jeans
and a sweatshirt.

"Mr. Homing? Hi. I'm Grace Nakimura." She walked over and extended
a hand.

"Ja. Sehr gut. Stephan Horning hier." The old man had a broad
smile. He looked over at the blond girl.

"Hallo, I'm Stephanie. My grandfather asked me to meet with you.

He doesn't speak English."

"That's great. Thank you, Stephanie."

The three of them settled into the comfortable wooden chairs

Horning had set up on the lawn.

"I was hoping your grandfather could tell me about Ludwig's

hunting accident," Grace began.

The girl spoke with her grandfather in a German that sounded

heavily dialectic. Stephan Morning's enthusiasm was evident, but
the actual words were mostly unintelligible.

"In 1873 he had the accident. Grandfather says he went bad after

"Does he know exactly how the accident occurred?"

"It was on a trip to Schachen. The king was riding with a friend
when it happened."

"Who was the friend?"

Grace could tell the answer before the girl translated, for it was
prefaced by one of those "Ne's" that grew longer and more guttural
the farther south one went.
"Papo—that's what Grandfather calls my great-great granddad—he
never said a name, only that Ludwig was with a friend. Papo didn't
like the king's friends much."


"And Ludwig fell from his horse? Was there any chance that he was
maybe pushed or ... or something?"

The girl repeated this question for her grandfather. The old man's
smile eased away, and he sat for a moment and looked at Grace,
considering. It was an odd sort of look, a curious weighing of
some matter, and Grace hoped it meant that she was on the right

Stephan Horning finally spoke again in that throaty, gulping


"He says he did fall from the horse, but that's not what hurt his
leg," the girl translated. She looked surprised herself. She spoke
to her grandfather on her own accord, trying to get the story

"He says Ludwig insisted that the servants tell no one, but the
real cause of the accident was a wolf. Ludwig ran into a wolf in
the forest. The horse reared and threw him, then the wolf
attacked. Ludwig was bitten in the leg."

Grace felt a strange numbness spread through her. The birds were
suddenly loud and the smell of the old man's pipe, suddenly
pungent and pervasive. It was a moment she knew she'd remember for
the rest of her life.

The old man was speaking again to his granddaughter.

"Grandfather says that he hardly ever tells anyone this. But then,
no one ever asks."

"Ludwig was bitten by a wolf," Grace repeated slowly.

"Yes. And then the wolf ran away. The servants searched in the
woods for days but never found anything."

"Schachen is in the Alps, right?"

Stephanie nodded. "Near the border. Grandfather took me there

once. It's beautiful."

"What about Ludwig's friend, did he see the wolf too?"

"Papo never said, but it was the friend who carried Ludwig to the

Grace thought about it, her heart beating dully in her chest.
"What happened after Ludwig was bitten?"
"He was sick for a long time. They thought the bite had gone . . .
um, infected maybe? Very high fever. He was out of his mind. He
didn't want any doctors. There was only his friend and a few
servants to tend him."

Grace had a clear picture of Ludwig, tall and dark with pale, pale
skin, lying in a palatial bed somewhere—maybe Herrenchiemsee or
Linderhof or even the Residenz in Munich—delirious, raging, out of
his mind with pain, and beside him, tending him . . .

"This friend who nursed him—was it the same one who was on the

Stephen Horning considered this for a bit, then spoke to his


"Yes. Probably. You see, Ludwig didn't have many friends, but he
often had someone ... a very . . . close friend, a man usually.
Papo really didn't like these men, so he always just called them
'Ludwig's friend' or 'Ludwig's companion.' "

The girl looked away uncomfortably, and Grace got the point.
Richard Horning had known, as no doubt all of the servants had,
that these men did more than share the king's leisure time.

"And then Ludwig recovered?" Grace said. "After a few months?"

The girl and the old man discussed this point.

"No. His wound got better, but the fever did something to his
brain. He was never the same again, Granddad says. Never."

Frau Horning—a very pretty old woman—came out and served them iced
tea. It was sweet and dark, and although Grace normally avoided
caffeine (unlike the bean slave Gabriel), she welcomed its kick
now. Horning knocked his pipe out against the chair, stubbed a toe
at the ash until it had disappeared, then filled his pipe again in
a methodical rite.

Grace spoke. "Can your grandfather tell me how Ludwig changed

after the accident?"

Horning described the king's growing reclusiveness, obsessiveness,

and fits of rage. These were things the museum too had touched
upon, but Homing's insistence on the accident as the origin point
was quite determined.

"The servants must have been terrified," Grace said


"Oh, yes!" Stephanie said on her own. She discussed it with her
"They were terrified, but not just because of the king's temper.
After he got angry, he felt very badly and gave them gifts. But
they were afraid more like . . . more for the king and for

"What does he mean?" Grace asked, leaning forward.

"There were all kinds of rumors. Papo made fun of them, of the
servants for being so superstitious, but he was scared too. Like
the sleigh rides. Ludwig had many bad nights, and when it was very
bad he would call for the sleigh. He made the servants go faster
and faster—really dangerous. And sometimes they couldn't go fast
enough and he would make them stop and he would go running by
himself. They were terrified he would hurt himself or get lost out
there, but he always came back."

Grace looked down at the grass for a moment, trying to keep her
composure. The green was iridescent, too rich to be real. "Was
there anything else—any other incidents that made the servants

Horning considered this. Finally he spoke again.

"Yes," Stephanie translated. "Near the end Wagner came to

Neuschwanstein, and he and Ludwig would lock themselves upstairs
in the hall. Then there would be music and very strange noises.
One time one of the servants called Papo in to hear them because
the other servants were so afraid. Papo said it sounded like the
devil himself was screaming."

They were quiet for a moment. The images the girl's words conjured
were so clear and detailed after having visited the castle, and
having seen the paintings and the portraits of Ludwig, after
knowing his eyes in the dream. . . . Horning was speaking again.

"Papo said once that Ludwig knew he was going mad. When Wagner
played, it was the king screaming, screaming for his own lost

The old man had tears in his eyes now. Big, swelling pools on the
edges of his lashes. His chin trembled. He fought it, as men do.
He cleared his throat and wiped his nose roughly. He looked away.

Stephanie reached out and slipped her delicate hand into her
grandfather's rough, tan paw.

"My grandfather loves Ludwig very much. All of the common people
did. Ludwig went home with Papo many times. He liked to play with
the children and eat meals there. He was really happy in Papo's
house, where he could just be a person."

Horning had reclaimed himself. Now he wrestled with the one old,
gnarled finger where a large ring sat. After a moment he worked it
free and held it out to Grace.
She looked at it closely. It was an ornate gold ring, heavy as a
rock. Its widening bands held engraved images of Ludwig—young on
one side and older on another, both surrounded by the Bavarian
crest and flag. In the center was a large oval ruby. Grace could
see something dark underneath the red.

"Ludwig gave Papo that ring. It has a lock of his hair in it."
Stephanie had a touch of pride in her soft voice. "Granddad was
given it on his eighteenth birthday, and when he dies, it will go
to my father."

"It's beautiful," Grace said to the girl. "Sehr shon," she said to
Horning with a warm smile.

"Ja," Horning said, smiling back. "Mein Ring von Ludwig. Sehr
shon. Sehr geliebten." Beloved.

Grace didn't even bother going back to the castle when she drove
into Rittersberg. Instead, she parked outside the gasthof and went
inside. Yes, the Smiths were upstairs, Werner informed her, and he
went to fetch them.

Mrs. Smith looked considerably better than she had the last time
Grace had seen her. In fact, she hurried over to the table with
thigh-rubbing eagerness and large liquid eyes.

"Oh, Grace dear, I'm so glad you came! We walked up to the castle
this morning, but you were out. I've been so worried!"

"Would you like something to drink, Miss Naki-mura?" Mr. Smith


"Yes, please. In fact—have you eaten lunch? I know it's late, but—

"Sweetie, my stomach doesn't wait past noon, but you go right on


So Grace ordered the quickest thing she could see on the menu—a
large mixed salad. She filled in Mrs. Smith while she ate.

She'd made a decision on the way over to tell the Smiths

everything, and she did. She didn't know why she trusted them
exactly, except that she couldn't imagine them being anything more
than they appeared. And they were the only ones who might actually
believe her. If she called Dallmeier and told him what she was
thinking . . .

Even she couldn't believe what she was now thinking.

"You think Bismarck sent this man—this Paul Gowden—to befriend

Ludwig . . ." Mrs. Smith said, trying to make sense of Grace's
rattled story.
"Seduce him."

"Seduce him, and that Gowden was a—a werewolf."

Grace nodded. "Christian Ritter thought so."

"Oh, my!" Mrs. Smith's lower lip cowered as her teeth pulled it
nervously. "Yes, that explains it. I've been dreaming of wolves.
Horrible, hideous dreams!"

"Me too!" Grace told Mrs. Smith about her dream of the sleigh and
the painting in the museum.

"My dear," Mrs. Smith said with serious, wide eyes. "Ludwig was
trying to contact you!"

"Do you think?"

"Yes, I do. Was there a black wolf in your dream?"

"No," Grace said slowly, trying hard to recall. Oddly, she could
recall. Most of her dreams evaporated like ether once she was
awake, but she did remember quite clearly the wolves that were
chasing her. They weren't black. In fact, she couldn't remember
feeling that they were all that important—not as personalities,
not like the silver wolf in the . . .

A slight gasp of realization escaped her. "It's true. Ludwig was a

werewolf; that's what he was trying to tell me in the dream."

Mrs. Smith looked at Grace, her head cocked to one side. "Yes, I
see," she said, not at all surprised.

"Gowden changed him—at Schachen. He bit him."

"Do you know why, dear?"

Grace twisted her fork between anxious fingers. "I don't know. If
he was working for Bismarck, maybe he wanted Ludwig insane. Or

Something else had occurred to Grace, and she wasn't at all sure
where it had come from.

"Or what, dear?"

"Or ... Maybe Gowden was supposed to kill Ludwig, but he changed
his mind. If he was the one Ludwig called Louis, they'd been
together for ... '64 ... '73 ... nine years! Maybe he did care for
Ludwig, at least enough not to be able to go through with it."

"Yes!" Mrs. Smith nodded. "That's exactly what crossed my mind as

you were talking!"
"So he just bit him. Made him into a werewolf. Maybe he even
wanted to make him into one. This book I found on werewolves
talked about their desire for a pack."

Mrs. Smith rushed in excitedly. "Perhaps Gowden really was in love

with Ludwig. By changing him into a werewolf, he could satisfy
Bismarck and himself at the same time. Ludwig would hardly be fit
to rule after that."

"And he wasn't," Grace said unhappily. "He wasn't fit to rule. It

explains everything. Can you imagine? He must have been terrified
that it would show, that he couldn't control it. He must have
thought others could see his terrible secret just by looking at
his face! And that's what the diary entries were about—he was
promising not to give in to it—not to change. But he couldn't help

Mrs. Smith was tapping the table pensively. "We went to visit one
of his castles on our way over here. I'd never felt such a sad
place. Now I know why."

"And it explains the paintings in the Singer's Hall. At least, I

think it does." Grace looked up at Mrs. Smith. "Is Ludwig the
spirit guide you saw in the tarot?"

Mrs. Smith shook her head slowly. "No. The spirit is definitely
female and much stronger than a human spirit. Someone or something
is acting on Ludwig's behalf, trying to get the message through.
Perhaps there's something we're supposed to do for poor Lud-wig,
or perhaps Gabriel—"

Mrs. Smith stopped abruptly. Her lips tightened to a determined


"Perhaps Gabriel what?" Grace demanded.

"Nothing, dear," Mrs. Smith said firmly. She reached over and
patted Grace's hand. "Only that we must warn your Schattenjager at
once. Have you already told him about the Black Wolf?"

"Yes," Grace said, nearly sick with worry, "but not enough. Not
nearly enough."

"Then we'll call him right away."

"Can't you contact Ludwig yourself? You're a medium, aren't you?"

Grace blushed at her own question, not sure what was more
embarrassing—that she'd been so reticent about Mrs. Smith's
"skills" earlier or that she was so gullible now.

Mrs. Smith shook her head. "I've been trying to contact whatever
is out there all yesterday and all today. I feel it, but I'm not
getting a clear signal. To tell you the truth, communicating with
the dead is not really my specialty."
Grace frowned.

"But I was thinking . . . With Gabriel's gifts—even if they're

latent, mind you ... I could probably help to focus and strengthen
his powers. You know, boost his radar. Gabriel and I together
might establish a channel."

Mrs. Smith smiled at Grace hopefully. "Why don't you give him a
ring, dear?"

Grace's face burned. She looked down at her hands. "I don't have a
phone number," she mumbled. "No one will tell me exactly where he

Mrs. Smith exchanged a knowing glance with Mr. Smith. Then she
picked up her spoon and carefully stirred her coffee.

When Grace got back to the castle, Gerde was waiting for her
anxiously. "Grace! You had a call while you were out."

"Josef Dallmeier?" Grace asked, hoping it was that entitlement


"No, a British man named Chaphill. He said something about having

a change of heart."

Grace stared at Gerde, unable to believe her ears. "You're kidding

me. Oh, my God, I have to call him right away!"

"Wait! You may not need to do that. He asked me for a fax number,
and I gave him the one at the post office in town. Then Frau Hogel
rang and said she'd gotten the fax. It's a long one. Fifty pages."

"Oh, my god!" Grace turned herself around several times before

successfully aiming for the front door.

"What is it, Grace? Is it important?"

"You wouldn't believe. I'll be right back with it, okay?"

Miss Nakimura:

I can hardly believe this myself, but the strangest thing happened after
you called. I kept hearing noises up in the attic. This is a huge old
place, you see, and it's difficult to hear anything, so these noises were
quite loud. When I went up to investigate, I saw that a stack of boxes
had fallen. One had opened and papers were strewn across the floor. I
picked them up and saw that they were my father's translation of the
diary. I packed those boxes myself, Miss Nakimura, and I don't recall
ever seeing those pages. In any case, I had the strongest feeling about
what I must do. Perhaps I'm a fool, but I've decided to trust you. Please
do not share these with anyone and destroy them when you are through.

Good luck. Sir Edmond Chaphill.

Grace felt chilled as she read this, and for the first time she
really knew that something much larger than herself was calling
the shots. She felt tears sting her eyes. She was not a religious
person by any means, but she closed her eyes and offered up a
silent prayer of thanks.

Then she walked back to the castle to read Lud-wig's diary.

llth June, 1873. Louis has convinced me to think matters through more
thoroughly before I act. A trip it shall be, then. To Schachen. It shall
not alter my purpose, I feel, nor shall his compelling. The treaty is the
ruin of my beloved Bavaria and must be disposed of, whatever the cost! I
regret now ever having made the decision. Of course, Louis makes the same
arguments now as he and so many others did then, but I have grown deaf to
that point of view. War or not, Bavaria must wear her own crown.

3rd July, 1873. Pain, pain, pain. The pain is so bad, I cannot hold a pen
to write. Oh, what has happened! But the pain is not the worst of it. The
horror is far more unbearable. He says that we can be truly one now, that
it is a great adventure. When he is next to me and I can look into his
eyes, I believe him. But the moment he turns away, I feel the horror of
it! I can feel the flames of hell upon my heels! Oh, most unnatural
state! Surely God cannot look upon such a creature. I pray to the blessed
Virgin every day for intercession for my soul!

5th January, 1874. By the power of Mary, Mother of God, I swear to

refrain from the ultimate sin and to remain steadfast in my flesh. Sworn
by the power of the lily. L & R.

16th May, 1875. I will not falter, but will remain true!!! No matter the
torment or longing, I will not yield. I will control the process, God
grant me strength and will. By the grace and power of the monarchy and
its allegiance. De Par Le Roy. L & R.

10th September, 1880. It is all finished. My life, my world, everything.

Elizabeth warned me and I discovered the truth at last. He was set upon me
by that Prussian jackal! It was all a lie, the Great Lie!

Oh, most venomous viper at my very bosom!! Oh, lowest of the least worthy
who ever breathed! My Judas! My devil! He dares still swear he loves me.
I spit on his words! If I could tear my heart out and fling it after him
in the dirt, I would, I would!!

21st December, 1880. He continues to come and beg at my door, the devil.
I will never look upon his hideous face again. He is afraid I will tell,
and I might, I might! To destroy him, I might! When 1 think on the
Change, now that things are clear, I wonder—what was his true intent? Was
it an accident, as he swore to me then, or had he plotted with that
jackal to destroy me? If so, why did he not simply kill me then instead
of putting me in this torment? Could he have hated me that much!

No. I know that part of him at least. He truly revels in this life. He
could not have guessed how much I would hate it. I wish to God he had
simply ended it there in blood and death!

10th June, 1881. Terror! Rapture! During W.'s performance tonight I felt
a strong pulling, and the horror nearly came upon me right there! Then
the music turned and the feeling was gone. What can it mean?!!! Can music
truly have such power? I must confide in the Great Friend. If anyone on
this earth understands the passion and potency of opera, it is he!

2nd August, 1882. The experiments go better and better. It has given me
something to hold on to, and the terror of the nights has somewhat eased.
Now that I have hope, I am better able to fight the sickness. The devil
still comes and waits outside in the night and calls for me, but I have
learned to stop up my ears and resist him. He comes less and less
frequently as a result, thank the blessed Mother of God. I still must
fight my own internal urges but She and W. give me courage to do so—-most
of the time.

W. has proved as loyal and determined as ever I believed he would be in a

matter of my salvation. He says he has the formula now; it remains only
to put the finishing touches on the completed opera and to draw up the
diagram for the crystals. Can this living death truly end? I scarce dare
to hope!

April, 1883. The Great Friend is dead! How unjust that he should be taken
from me now! Where is my chance at salvation? Why has God condemned me

10th October, 1885. There MUST be made clear funds for the crystals.
Lies, everyone lies! My own servants! What must I do? Must I sell one of
my beloved castles? The crystals MUST BE MADE! I grow daily less able to
control my own will (how long will I be able to resist the ultimate
sin?), and the music is worthless without the device. Time is running out
for me. There are rumors and plots and conspiracies. Please, God, the
crystals MUST BE MADE!

Bayreuth, Germany

It was sunny and clear when Grace reached Bayreuth. Wahnfried, the
residence where Wagner spent the last years of his life, had been
made into a museum. Grace found a side street on which to park and
hurried back to the villa. She felt her search was narrowing; the
picture was coming into focus as if a lens was turning somewhere.
The diary had given her the last piece of the puzzle—Ludwig's
hope. And his hope had lain with Wagner.

As if an omen of good faith, she was greeted at the door of the

villa by a large bronze head of Ludwig— the young Ludwig, face
tender and vulnerable. She smiled at him reassuringly and pulled
open the heavy door.

"Guten Tag," the attendant said.

"Griiss Gott," Grace answered.

The entryway was small, with a built-in display case that served
as a desk for the museum attendant. He was a young man, mid-
twenties, blond and studious-looking with wire-rimmed glasses. He
had a sheaf of papers in front of him, and as Grace paid for her
ticket, she noticed that it was musical staff paper with hand-
marked notes.
"Danke," she said as he gave her change.

"You're American?"

"Yes," Grace answered with a sigh. It was amazing how few people
here would give a foreigner a chance to speak the language.

"You'll have the place all to yourself today. We had a tour group
this morning, but it's been quiet since then. If you have any
questions, please ask me. I love to be interrupted."

He smiled at her, and his soft pink skin flushed a little at the

"My work is not going so well," he explained hurriedly, as though

she'd think he was being facetious.

Grace promised to interrupt frequently and lengthily, and went

into the museum.

She passed through the displays like a crow circling a wheat

field—eyes darting to see through the hubris and history for
something that was actually relevant. Had anyone seen her, they
would have thought her quite odd with her peering, dissecting, and
dismissing rush through the displays.

Ludwig hadn't entered Wagner's life until 1864, so the early years
were bypassed quickly. Then Wagner's fortunes had changed. Fleeing
from city to city, deeply in debt, he'd been quite in trouble
until his own personal savior appeared, a rich patron, a royal
patron, a devoted, adoring, smitten fan—the teenage King Ludwig.
Here a locket portrait of the king given by Ludwig to the "musical
genius." And money, of course. What did Ludwig care for money?
Sacks of it to save Wagner's neck, promises made by Wagner,
promises later broken. But the performances! Ludwig's generosity
saved the music. He insisted upon Wagner in Munich, a city that
despised the composer. He opened doors.

Page after page of original sheet music in the maes-tro's own

hand—Lohengrin, Parsifal, Der Ring des Ni-belungen. Grace passed
them without pause.

And finally, in a small room, a tribute to Wagner's patron saint.

The sunlight filtered in through a stained-glass image of Ludwig,
all royal blues and deep reds, hair black-painted glass, features
etched from a portrait. In a cabinet was correspondence between
Ludwig and Wagner. Grace scanned them. From the king were mostly
flowery praises, almost embarrassing in the rational world of the
1990s, so vociferously emotional and extravagantly phrased. But
then, the king was no doubt inspired by Wagner's operas, which
were nothing if not overdramatic and ponderously self-
The last letter in the case was from Wagner to Ludwig. Grace
almost dismissed this one too when the date caught her eye. She
read the English translation on the sign next to it.
July 1882.

Great and beloved King. Monsieur Beaujolais and I have finished the diagram.
We checked the figures many times, and M. is confident that it will work.
Eight identical fixtures are to be made from the diagram and placed in the
theater exactly as specified. I'm sending the diagram with your courier.

Be full of hope and have courage. Your soul is more precious to me than mine
own—we shall win it peace or die trying. Your own Wagner.

Grace gripped the display case with cold fingers. It confirmed

what she'd read in the diary. Ludwig and Wagner had conspired on
something, but what? Where was the diagram the letter mentioned?
Grace looked through all the displays in the room but found
nothing. She hurried into the next room. There was more here on
the building of Wagner's theater in Bayreuth. Grace hurried past

In the last room was an account of Wagner's death in 1883. He'd

been visiting Venice and had suffered a heart attack in a gondola.
A few days later he had died quietly at his desk. Cosima had been
inconsolable. Ludwig had been inconsolable. The world had been
inconsolable. Especially, no doubt, Wagner's debtors.

Then she saw it—a desk against the wall roped off with red velvet
theater ropes. A sign said Wagner's desk exactly as it was the day
he died.

Grace leaned forward over the ropes. There were papers on the
desk. Had they really been untouched? Wouldn't Wagner have been
working on "that project" just before his death? Grace glanced
around, but there was no one in the room. She'd seen no once since
she'd entered except for the young man at the entrance. She ducked
under the rope.

In the middle of the desk, on a faded green blotter pad, was a

large piece of paper. It was a diagram of a theater. The name at
the top said Residenztheater, Munchen. The diagram was a cutaway
of the theater, showing each individual seat, the stage, the
doors, everything. This layout was formally printed, but on top
had been added measurements and lines in pencil—from the stage to
the back of the theater, from box to box, measurements from floors
to ceilings and wall to wall. And large X's were marked along the
ceiling at precise intervals, each also measured with lines and
numbers, distances from each X to the stage, walls, floor, back
center box seats, all enumerated.

It was definitely a diagram, but was it the diagram Wagner had

mentioned in his letter? Grace thought not, for that letter had
referred to it as a diagram for some kind of "fixture" or "device"
of which eight copies were to be made. But this theater diagram
had to be related to the bit about "placing the devices in the
theater exactly as specified." There were eight X's, four on each
side of the theater. But what were the devices? And why did their
placement require such mathematical precision?

A stack of correspondence lay to the left of the blotter. Grace

glanced behind her again and then carefully riffled through them
with the historian's awareness of the fragility of paper. The one
on the bottom had a large drawing of a diamond shape on it. Grace
pulled it out and studied it quickly.

It was from a Monsieur Beaujolais—the man mentioned in Wagner's

letter to Ludwig. It was in French, and Grace understood none of
it. But what was clear was that the letter, several pages long,
was a discussion of mathematical formulae. Equations and drawings
of what looked like sound waves were abundant. And then there was
the drawing of what had to be, not a diamond, but a crystal. The
drawing was meticulously rendered, with every facet to be cut
scribbled with measurements and angles. This, then, was one of the
crystals of which Ludwig's diary spoke. The crystals must be made!
Grace leaned forward again to study the schematic of the theater,
the positions of the X's.

Chandeliers? Could it be crystal chandeliers? All this effort for


She put the letter back and ducked under the rope, her mind
cogitating. A diagram of the Residenz-theater. And crystals,
possibly crystal chandeliers. Sound waves . . . Acoustics? Did it
have something to do with acoustics?

Then she remembered she had brought the diary with her. She pulled
it out of her purse and flipped through it.
10th June, 1881. Terror! Rapture! During W.'s performance tonight I felt
a strong pulling, and the horror nearly came upon me right there! Then
the music turned and the feeling was gone. What can it mean?!!!

Can music truly have such power? I must confide in the Great Friend. If
anyone on this earth understands the passion and potency of opera, it is

Grace stared at it for a moment, her brain rebelling at

comprehension. The diary, the strange sessions in the Singer's
Hall . . . Ludwig screaming. Acoustics. The X's on the theater
diagram, the measurements and calculations, reminding her somehow
of a blueprint for a bank heist. A plot, a plan, a new
performance, not here in Bayreuth, where all of Wagner's new work
was done at the time, but in Munich once again.

They had been laying a trap.

The words came into her resistant mind like a floodgate opening.
She saw the werewolf lore book in front of her as clearly as if
she'd been holding it there.

The true werewolf may shy ft forme at wil, but the Chaunge may be
forced upon them by certeyn sounds swich as the howling of a wolf or
the presence of a ful moon.

I felt a strong pulling, a pulling, pulling, pulling and the horror,

the nightmare, the living death nearly came upon me right there . . .

Wagner and Ludwig had been working on a way to force the Change
with music. A trap to catch a werewolf.

"Excuse me," Grace said. She startled the young man.

He jumped a bit in his seat and giggled nervously. "Sorry, I was

trying to hear a phrase. Sometimes my ears forget to hear the
outside world when I'm doing that."

"I am interrupting, then."

"No, please!"

"Grace Nakimura," she said, holding out her hand. The young man
accepted it with a tinge of surprise.

"Georg. Georg Immerding."

"Georg, I was wondering if I could ask you something."

"Of course." He closed his noteboook and pushed it to one side.

Grace hesitated and took a deep breath. "Georg, have you ever
heard about a lost Wagner opera?"

Georg recoiled backward and nearly lost control of the stool. He

caught himself from falling by gripping the top of the display
case with one hand and waving the other erratically in the air.

"Georg?" Grace asked, alarmed.

"No. Sorry. I'm okay." He squeaked. He settled his stool firmly

back on the ground. "Did my brother send you here?"

Grace raised an eyebrow. "Uh, no."

"No. Of course not. It's just that my brother laughs at my ideas.

He thinks lost operas are for fools."

"So you do think there is one?"

"Only in the dreams of unemployed composers." Georg smiled

wistfully. "Of which my brother is not one. He's the conductor for
the Munich opera."
"Really?" Grace was impressed.

"Oh, yes," Georg said with a trace of rancor. "So you see, he
doesn't need to imagine such things."

"But what if there really was one? Have you ever seen the panels
in the Singer's Hall at Neuschwanstein?"

"Many times," Georg said, his eyes shining. "It very much looks
like a Wagner."

"And Ludwig wrote to the Munich conductor about a new opera too,
am I right?"

Georg looked at Grace appraisingly. "Are you a musician?"

"No. I'm more interested in Ludwig, actually. I think he was

planning something with Wagner. In fact, I know he was."

"I wish I could help you. The thing is . . ." Georg stroked his
chin dejectedly. "My brother says Wagner would not have worked on
a secret project for Ludwig. It was not in his nature. If he had a
new opera, he would have told everyone—on and on he would have
told. It was in Ludwig's nature to want a private opera, but not
in Wagner's to give him one."

"But he wasn't writing it for Ludwig alone. The letter showed that
it was to be performed in Munich."

Georg shrugged, but his face betrayed a desire to be convinced.

"Even so ... If he ever started such a thing Cosima, his family .
. . they would know."

Grace thought about it, biting her lower lip stress-fully. "Unless
he had a good reason for secrecy."

"Like what?"

Grace couldn't bring herself to say it, even if she'd had time to
explain, which she didn't. She sighed. "I'm not sure. Have you
ever seen anything else that pointed to a lost opera? Anything
here maybe?"

Georg looked down at his nails. "Well . . . There is something in

the archives. I was not supposed to look at it, actually."

"What?" Grace leaned on the display case and bent forward to get a
look at his face. His long blond bangs hid his eyes. "Georg?"

"Cosima Wagner's journal. It is in a case. One day I opened it

when no one was here."

"What'd it say? Can I see it?"

He glanced up guiltily. "No, please. I should not have looked
myself. It is nothing anyway."

Grace made up her mind quickly. She stood up straight and put her
hands on her hips. "All right, Georg. I'll show you mine if you
show me yours."

"What?" he said with an embarrassed giggle.

"Diaries. Have you heard of Ludwig's?"

"Of course! But no one's allowed to see it."

"I have a copy. With me."

Georg shook his head in disbelief. "No."

Grace pulled it from her purse and slapped it on the counter.

"This is a handwritten English translation made by Sir Richmond
Chaphill when he was writing Ludwig's biography."

Georg looked at the sheaf of papers with wide eyes. "Not

possible," he repeated in a much smaller voice.

"Go get Cosima's journal, Georg," Grace growled.

Georg went.

They locked the front door to the museum and spread both documents
out on the counter, then huddled together like children studying
ants. In the silence of the hall, Grace's clear voice range out.

" 'August, 1882. The experiments go better and better. W. has

proved as loyal and determined as ever . . . it remains only to
put the finishing touches on the completed opera and to make up
the diagram for the crystals.' "

"My God!" Georg whispered. "Completed*. An opera completed in

1882. Is it possible?"

Grace's dark eyes were laden with intent. "What do you think?"

Georg flushed under her gaze. "Okay, listen to this." He

translated haltingly. "July, 1881. Richard returned from his
meeting with the king. Never have I seen him so pale. I was
worried for his heart! He would not speak with me, but immediately
shut up himself in his study and started working on a new project.
He will not tell me the first thing about it. He will only say
that it was time he repaid his king.' "

Grace was leaning over the counter, her face inches away from
Georg's own. "My God! That must have been the start of it—of the
new opera!"
"Yes, but what happened? Why was he so pale? Why so secretive?"
Georg asked, his eyes searching hers.

"I—I'm sure there was a reason." Grace faltered. She couldn't

hide much at this distance, so she hastily changed the subject.
"The real question is, if the opera was completed, what happened
to it? Where did it go?"

Georg's eyes went wide. He began flipping through the journal.

"When I saw this before, I thought I was imagining things, but .
. . Listen."

" 'May, 1883. I sent Richard's sealed package to the king as he

instructed me the day before he closed his eyes forever. I could
not even bring myself to care what was in it, though heaven
knows there were times when I wanted more than anything to know
what was going on between those two. That seems so stupid now,
now that life itself had ended. Whatever it is, I hope it brings
the king good memories of Richard. He did so much for my
beloved.' "
Somewhere down the hall, a grandfather clock was ticking. In the
silence of the moment it seemed as loud and measured as
approaching footsteps. Grace, oddly, was suddenly aware of the
ticks, one, two, three; then she looked up at Georg and he at
her, and they both spoke in breathy unison two simple words.

"The package!"
On the way back to Rittersberg, Grace's elation made the miles
blur together as though even the clock bent to her will. But by
the time she reached Augsburg, time had reasserted itself and
pressed her spirits back down. She felt she'd solved the mystery
of Ludwig, at least the heart of it. Exactly how he had died and
why his plan went wrong, that was another matter.

But more important, she realized that she still had no clue as
to how this fit into Gabriel's case. For that matter, perhaps it
didn't. Perhaps it was only her openness to the idea of
werewolves and Christian Ritter's letter that had brought
Ludwig's plight to her. Perhaps it had nothing to do with Gabriel
at all.

That's not what Mrs. Smith says.

Then Grace realized that she knew almost nothing about Gabriel's
case. Something about killings in Munich that might be the work of
a werewolf. Something about a hunt club and suspects. Somewhere,
Gabriel was off doing what she was doing, what he'd done in New
Orleans (so recklessly, so dangerously), and she didn't have the
first clue where or what or whom or how. She'd gotten so caught up
in her own research, so eager to make her own mark, that she'd
forgotten that he was off somewhere making his as well, perhaps
even mucking about with a real werewolf, mucking about in that
brash, bungie-jumping way of his.

And she was suddenly very afraid.

Gerde was sitting on the sofa, trying to solve a crossword puzzle.

She had the phone perched next to her, and the blankness of the
page confirmed her distracted state. She got up as soon as the
front door opened.

"Grace, I've been so worried! Is everything all right?"

"Yes," Grace said, though she suddenly was sure it wasn't. "Did
Gabriel call?"

Gerde shook her head, her face pensive.

"When was the last time you heard from him?"

Gerde rubbed her hands together anxiously. "Not since he left.

There was that letter to you, and that is all. I decided to call
Herr Ubergrau a few hours ago, and he sounded worried himself. The
last he knew, Gabriel was leaving for a hunting trip."

"Hunting trip?" No two words could have sounded more ominous.

Grace felt a sickening rush of dread.

"Yes. I don't understand it. Is he still working on the case, do

you think?"

Grace bit her lip. "His letter said something about suspects in
a hunt club. He must have gone off with them."
Grace realized she'd never shared the letter with Gerde and felt
"Oh, and there was a call from Herr Dallmeier," Gerde continued.
"He said he has the information you requested if you want to
call him back."
Grace fished in her purse and found Gabriel's letter. "Here.
Read it. I'll go call Josef, and when I'm done we should talk to
Werner. He knows where Gabriel went, doesn't he?"
"Yes, it ... it was the Hubers' farm near Munich," Gerde said,
looking down as if feeling guilty about having withheld the
information for so long.
"Well, it will be someplace to start. As soon as I'm done with
my phone call, okay?"
"All right." Gerde nodded. She watched anxiously as Grace ran up
to the library.
"Josef? It's Grace."
"Grace! You're in luck. I found a copy of the entitlement deed.
It had been filed in Berlin. Fortunately, it was among a
shipment of city papers that were taken out and hidden during
the war. They were recovered only ten years ago."
"That's great. What does it say?" Grace asked impatiently.
"Gowden did change his name. The new one is on the deed."
"Read it."

Grace's stomach was suddenly in knots, and the phone receiver

grew slick in her hand. She had the terrible feeling that she
would recognize the name, that what was about to be said would
change everything.

Dallmeier read it. Her instincts had not been wrong. As soon as
the words were out of his mouth,
Grace screamed and dropped the phone. It was still rocking on the
floor, Dallmeier's worried voice calling hollowly through it, as
her feet pounded down the stairs.

Chapter 7
He was dreaming of Grade. She stood alone in a ballroom, an
immense ballroom, and she was wearing a dress from another era:
low-cut, tight bodice, full, arching skirt in some kind of creamy
silk, all lace and glimmer. Her hair was piled up in ringlets, and
white pearls wove their way through the black luster that outshone
them. Her face was softened without the bangs and the blunt A-line
cut that usually touched both cheeks. It was a beautiful face and
so familiar.

God, he hadn't realized how much he'd missed her! He tried to

approach her, but he didn't seem to have a body. He could only
watch as she glided silently across the polished marble floor and
stopped in front of a large painting.

It was a life-size portrait of a young man dressed in regal blue

with epaulets and medals and a bright red sash. The young man's
pale, narrow face was surrounded by a mist of black curls, and his
blue eyes were as deep an indigo as his uniform.

Grace reached out her hand to touch the painting. She trailed her
fingers longingly down one long arm, and when their slender tips
reached the painted ones, they curled around each other. She
pulled, gently, and the man stepped from the painting into the

And now they were dancing and the man held her in his arms. So
tall was he, and handsome. Her pale skin against his starched
royal blue was a song filled with longing as they moved. It was a
picture too perfect, too compelling to be denied. He leaned down
his head and

kissed her.

Then they were spinning, spinning, two dark heads locked in an

embrace, locked in a kiss that would waken the dead, a kiss that
could exchange souls, and Gabriel's dream eye watched the sweep of
Grace go by, the creamy skin of her back above the tight silk, as
they spun around again. He felt a swelling tide of jealousy and
desire, wanted to tear the young man away and take his place, and
then realized that

he had.

In an instant the bodiless spectator he had been vanished and she

was in his arms, as real as anything. He could feel the cool
stiffness of the silk against his arms where he held her, against
his shirt, against his pants. He drew her in more tightly,
pressing her against him, while his mouth experienced her
greedily, sweetly, like a long drink of cool water to one parched
of thirst. He drew her in with his lips, his tongue, wanting only
to fall into this moment and never return.

He thought, So this is what it's like.

She pulled back, one hand pushing against his chest. Her lips left
his, and he opened his eyes and saw, over her shoulder, the young
man in blue. He was standing across the room, watching them, and
as Gabriel's eyes met his, he raised his arm and pointed, like a
mute beacon, toward Gabriel, beyond him.

Gabriel turned his head to look. Where the painting had been there
was now a mirror. Reflected in the glass was Grace, reversed, and
standing next to her, where he should have been, stood

a wolf.

He turned to look at Grace, his eyes searching for the

contradiction. Her expression was loving and woeful. She caressed
his puzzled face with her hand and opened her mouth to speak.

Beware the Black Wolf.

* * *

He was rushing through the darkness. He could hear Leber's voice

Two wolves missing from the zoo.

Then he was back in the cave, in the lair, and he could hear the
sound of his own retching, and he could see his hand splayed flat
on a rock for balance and by that hand

von Zell in the moonlight, coarse fur thick and bristly, red fur,
red like the hair from the farm.

Von Glower emerging from the cave. He opened his mouth, but what
came out was not what he said that day, at that moment. What came
out was

An Alpha werewolf will not harm a beta of its own making with its own


They are at the ravine, and von Glower rides up on his horse and
the wolf. The red wolf is standing there growling, snarling, and
Gabriel screams

Kill it! Shoot it!

and von Glower throws him the gun

You must do it.

Von Glower in the dark woods, ahead of him, messing with his hair—
no, his ears. And the wolfs howl cutting through the night and
Gabriel calling out


and von Glower not turning, not hearing.

Two wolves missing

Leber said.


And there he was, von Zell, sitting there, looking smug in the
chair at the club.

We used to hunt together quite a bit. I suppose I've simply outgrown


And then Gabriel was in the lair, the choking, cloying lair, and
he was looking down at the bodies in the pit, illuminated by the
lantern: the corpses, some of them just bones, the tattered
remains of faded clothes, some of them fresh but some of them so

Started acting strange about a year ago

So old.

Von Glower was telling von Zell he'd acted stupidly about


When a healthy beast kills, it takes only what it needs to survive

and it does so respectfully

"But the killer is not a man," Gabriel mumbled out loud.

A healthy beast

SO OLD.'!!!!

The creature he'd imagined, the beast running down the wooded path
at night, dragging a body back to the lair silently, carefully,
hiding the evidence

In broad daylight

Leber was leaning forward at his desk

Body parts left lying like a trail of bread crumbs

Not this pointless slaughter

And the hand was on the rock; he was retching, retching, retching,
and the hand was on the rock and next to the hand was hair, animal
hair, long and thick like that at the farm but even in the dim
light from the cave opening he can see it isn't red, it has no
luster, no tinge of auburn, no inner light.

Two wolves
It was black.

Acted stupidly

It was black.

Then it is on your head



He woke up and found himself on the floor of the Huber farm. He'd
fallen off the couch at some point, and the afghan was tangled
around his legs.

And he was in the grip of a terrible, wrenching, debilitating

pain. It was coming from everywhere and nowhere, from the marrow
of the bones in his limbs, from his head, which was bursting
asunder, from his stomach, which was surfing on waves of nausea,
from his lungs, which felt like they were breathing liquid fire,
from the stinging, burning, crawling wound on his leg.

"No!" he cried again. The plea was born in his mind as a scream,
but it came out as a guttural whisper. Even his throat was on

And he knew what was happening but couldn't, wouldn't, wouldn't

believe it until he looked down and saw his forearm, bare in the
moonlight, ripple, the muscles beneath the skin dancing and
cording and slipping across the bone.

"Nol Oh, God, no! Jesus, no! Please, God! Pleasel"

He'd killed von Zell, but he'd missed something: von Zell's
changer—the alpha wolf, the black alpha wolf. Von Glower was the
alpha. He hadn't thrown the gun to remove Gabriel's curse. He'd
thrown it because he couldn't kill von Zell himself.

And then the pain in his gut bent him on the floor like a bowing
marionette. He screamed as he felt his spine shift, tear, bend.

Oh, God, let it end, let me wake up. Make it stop. Let it end.

And then he heard the sounds of the door opening and footsteps.

"Gabriel!" It was Grace's sweet, frantic New York voice.

"Go. Away." He managed to choke out. "Get out. Now!"

"It's all right, dear," came an incongruously relaxed and soothing

voice. "We know all about it, and we know just what to do."


The cold forced him to rise from unconsciousness. When he opened

his eyes, shivering and naked, he saw that he was lying on a
chilly earthen floor. The smell in his nostrils was dank and
musty, like a basement or ... or a cave. And when he managed to
raise his head (which weighed about a hundred pounds) on his neck
(which felt like it had the worst case of whiplash ever), he saw
that he was in a stone room. A cell.

He immediately panicked. In a pitiless wave of remembrance he knew

everything. And although he couldn't recall exactly what had
happened last night— it was as hazy as a bad dream—he knew, from
the broken feel of his body and from his nakedness, that he must
have . . . must have changed.

And now he was in prison.

He scrambled to his feet, his fear overriding his bruised muscles.

He looked around, but there was nothing in the room but a cot—not
a scrap of clothing, not even a blanket with which to cover
himself. He was to be treated like an animal, then.
And just about the time he was going to open his mouth and scream,
he heard a loud sound. It grated on his ears like the whetting of
a blade on stone, and he realized it was the lock on the door
outside, only amplified ten times. And then the door creaked open.

A slightly built older man entered. He had a long, sober face and
little hair, and his outfit was pure Americana circa 1976. He held
out a neat stack of blue jeans and T-shirt and averted his eyes.

"Put these on now," he said, trying hard to sound ordinary. "Then

come on upstairs. We have a hot bath waiting for you at the
castle. Those scratches'll need tending."

It was the worst fifteen minutes of his life. He would remember it

a long time afterward, with unwelcomed clarity, and with the
memory would come a humiliation so overburdening it made him wish
for a loaded gun and the courage to place it to his temples. For a
long time afterward.

And this was how it began. He watched the man leave, and then he
put on his clothes. Now that he knew where he was, the worst of
the fear had gone and his aches and pains reasserted themselves
petulantly. He felt as though he'd gone ten rounds with a five-
hundred-pound gorilla. Bending his knees to get into his pants, he
had to bite his lips to keep from screaming out loud. And the
nausea, wave after wave, like the worst flu he'd ever experienced,
and the shivering, wretched shivering. He had a fever. He was
burning up.

And when he'd finally accomplished it, when the clothes were more
or less on his body, he walked weakly to the door and tried to
straighten himself up, tried to firm up his throbbing spine.

Then there came a walk up a flight of stone stairs, supported,

reluctantly, by the tall man who said something about being Mr.
Smith from blah blah blah. A walk up the flight of stairs into the
light, like emerging from the tomb. And at the top came the worst
of it. The faces.

Werner's face and the postmistress's face and the priest's face
and the baker's face and the faces of all the other villagers
waited in the Rittersberg town square. Waiting there, like a crowd
gathered at the scene of an accident. Waiting there, as if hoping
to catch sight of some blood. And right up in front was Gerde's
face. And Grace. Worst of all, Grace's perky, familiar little

All looking at him. Trying to smile. All drenched in pity. Pity.

Pity. Pity.

Welcome home, they said, in English, in German. And Werner's hand

on his shoulder—You got one of them. You got the one that killed
Toni Huber. You did well.
(a lie)

And Grace chattering nervously. We have a hot bath and Doktor

Strutz here to look at you, and Gerde made breakfast—aren't you
starved? I bet you're starved.

And on and on and he tried to push through them, and his face must
have shown something, for Gerde was saying, Let's just get him to
the castle. He must be tired. He looks tired. Let's just . . .

And the car and he was getting into it and he could still see the
faces outside. The specious sympathy on the faces. And then the
drive up the hill to the castle and still Grace was chattering,
her hand coming lightly to rest on his arm now and then (as if to
show that he was not repulsive, which, of course, he was), and he
couldn't bear to look at her, couldn't stand it that she could see
him, not this way, and more chattering as the car doors opened and
the sunlight pierced his brain and then they were in the cool
dimness of the castle and how strange that it was still the same,
that everything was still the same—everything, everything,
everything except for him.

And finally he was in the bathroom, finally he could disappear,

finally he could close the door and shut them out, all those
faces, all those words. He locked the door and took off his
clothes, and now the pain in his body was nothing, was welcome,
was his due, and he stepped into the tub and sank into the water
and covered his face with a hot, wet washcloth.

And sobbed. Silently.

"No, we can pull it off," Grace insisted.

"Only if we can find it," Gerde said doubtfully.

"Why don't we just wait and see how the session goes?" said Mrs.

"That might be best," Mr. Smith agreed.

They were all at the table in the castle's dining room. The table
was set and the dishes were still clean. The smell of coffee
filled the room.

"Ahem." Mr. Smith cleared his throat, and the others realized
Gabriel was standing in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb,
arms folded.

"God, I could smell that from upstairs," he said. He walked

stiffly over to the table and picked up the coffeepot. Hot, dark
liquid streamed into a cup.

"Are you feeling better?" Grace asked. "Doktor Strutz is waiting

at the gasthof. I can call him."
"Not just now, Grade." Gabriel pulled back the empty chair—its
feet scraping loudly in the awkward silence—and sat down gingerly.

"So where's the chow?" he asked, looking around at them brightly.

His fair complexion was mottled with pink—from the hot bath, Grace
wondered, or the fever?

Gerde got up and went into the kitchen. Mrs. Smith went in to
help. Grace got up too, but she headed for Gabriel instead. She
placed a cool hand on his forehead.

"You're burning up."

"I'm fine," he growled. He pulled her hand away and shook it.
"Nice to meet ya."

A crease of irritation appeared just between her brows. He seemed

to recognize it, for he smiled fondly.

"Fine! You're fine. A hundred and three, no big deal. Sorry I

mentioned it." Grace went back to her chair.

He drank the coffee greedily, as he always had. He winced at

first, then drank some more.

"How'd you get back to the Hubers', anyway?" Grace asked, still a
little put out. "I thought you were on a hunting trip."

"Didn't feel much like hangin' out after . . . once I was hurt.
Frie—" He paused awkwardly. "They dropped me off. I was gonna
drive back here, but I was so ... so tired."

He said it lightly. He cleared his throat.

"Good thing. I really didn't think we'd find you."

He said nothing. He glanced at the kitchen door.

"There's so much to tell you," Grace said breathlessly. She leaned

forward, studying his face. "God, a million things! You're not
going to believe this, but remember that letter to Ludwig? Guess
who the Black Wolf was that Christian Ritter was tracking?"

Gabriel looked down at his knife. His pinkness deepened. "Von

Glower," he said stiffly.

"Right! Here I was tracking down this whole Black Wolf thing with
Ludwig-—by the way, he changed Ludwig into a werewolf too. Can you
believe it?"

Gabriel looked up at her sharply.

"And the whole time, I couldn't quite figure out how it might be
related to what you were doing. 'Course, it would've helped if
you'd told me what you were doing."
She paused in her spiel to let that sink in. He looked away.

"Then Dallmeier found the entitlement deed. You see, the Black
Wolf was Ludwig's lover. His real name back then was Paul Gowden,
but Bismarck gave him a title—probably for his help in closing the
Prussian treaty—and he changed it. Changed it to Baron Rudolf von
Glower. He even appears in Ludwig's diary as the R in 'L & R'.

"In fact, Dallmeier helped me track von Glower while you were, um,
out of it yesterday. Rudolf von Glower left Germany in 1890. In
1927 his alleged son returned to claim the family lands and title—
an Endro von Glower. He was around until 1942, then went abroad
again. In 1970 a Friedrich von Glower showed up. You know what I
think? I think it's all the same guy. The inquisitor's manual said
werewolves are essentially immortal. I don't think it's been new
generations at all. He has to go away once in a while so people
don't catch on about his age."

The kitchen door swung open, and Gerde emerged with a platter of
meats and cheese. Gabriel looked relieved.

"That's good, Grace," he said flatly. He looked at the platter and

patted his stomach. "Man, I'm ravenous!"

Gerde stopped in mid-stride and stared at him. The spoon on the

platter rattled lightly as her hands shook.

Gabriel turned scarlet and went back to messing with the cream

Grace stood up. "Let me help." She moved to Gerde's side and took
the platter. Gerde's eyes welled up with sudden tears, and she ran
back into the kitchen.

"Uh . . . Looks good, huh?" Grace said cheerfully, putting the

platter on the table. The cold array of sliced pressed meats and
thick local cheeses stared up at her. "Uh, doesn't it?" she asked

His chin trembled and he exploded. He pushed the table away

roughly, sending it skidding several inches. His chair clattered
to the stone floor as he strode from the room in a rage.

She found him outside on the doorstep. He was pacing angrily, one
hand pressed against his mouth. When she came out, he turned his
back to her. His shoulders were tensed so hard she could see the
corded muscles beneath his shirt.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean what you thought I meant.
It's just that I know you're probably sick, and those cold cuts

She trailed off. He said nothing.

She took a deep breath. "I know this must be hard, but we're going
to fix it."

"No, Grace! You have no idea how it is, okay? You have no fucking

He turned to face her, and she saw the violence of his rage, and
the shame.

She looked away, embarrassed. "No, I guess I don't."

"No fucking idea," he mumbled again, as if to himself.

She glanced at him sideways, wanting desperately to comfort him.

"I know you're upset, but I really think we can fix it. You see,
Ludwig had a plan. ..."

"You can't fix it, Grace," Gabriel interrupted darkly. "I fucked
up, okay? You won. You were right, you figured it out, you're the
smart one. Me, I was wrong. I blew it. I screwed up. I flunked
out. I bit it. Okay? Does that make you happy? It's over. You go
on and take over now. I'm sure everyone will love you."

Grace shook her head impatiently. "Cut the crap and listen, will
you? There's this opera that Wagner wrote, and it—"

Gabriel snorted bitterly, then he laughed out loud, a loathing

laugh. "Grace! Come on! You should have just left me there."

Grace's face darkened. "What are you talking about? Left you
where"? At the Huber farm? And what good would that do? You'd just
be roaming the countryside like .. . like von Zell! At least here
we can put you behind bars when it happens, so you don't—"

But he moved to her side in one quick stride. He gripped her arm
painfully, his face so terrible, the words died in her throat. She
immediately regretted what she'd said. She finally saw, really saw
how it was. She too had been in a kind of denial.

"Just kill me," he said quietly, his fingers digging into her arm.
His eyes were so filled with darkness, they were unbearable.

"I can't," she said, her voice thickening. "Gabriel, I can't. I


Other words, words that had come to her mouth from out of nowhere
died unsaid. But perhaps he felt them anyway, for when she reached
out her arms and gathered him to her, he didn't resist. He buried
his face on her shoulder and allowed her to hold him like that for
a long, bittersweet time.

"Now, hon, here's the plan," Mrs. Smith said. She leaned over the
couch where he lay. He could see the light overhead shining right
through her beehive in a kind of dyed filament glow.
"You just hold this ring here that Grace got and close your eyes.
We're gonna try to make contact. You and me together, all right?"

She sounded exactly like something from a UFO documentary. He

turned his head to one side so he could shoot Grace a look.

Go on, Grace mouthed. Gabriel sighed.

"Don't forget the opera," Grace added for the tenth time.

Gabriel grumbled low in his throat.

"Now don't block, dear. You have the gift and you've already been
in contact with him, so there's no need to play skeptic. You don't
need to worry about saying anything, I'll do the communicating.
You just do your best to get into his mind—that lock of Lud-wig's
hair in that ring should help you do that. If this works the way I
hope it will, you'll help me bridge the gap to the other side. Now
come on. Close your eyes."

Gabriel sighed again and closed them. He'd insisted on having

everyone out of the room, but Grace had insisted on staying.

At first he fought Mrs. Smith's low, soothing voice as she talked

him down, fought it rebelliously, derisively, silently. But at
last fatigue overcame him, and he fell into the hypnotic tones, as
silly as they were. He stopped thinking about how silly they were
and fell.

Neuschwanstein, 1886

Ludwig opened his eyes to the sound of scratching on the door. He

hadn't been sleeping, only trying to shut down the panic that
threatened to consume him. At the interruption any progress he'd
made evaporated like the illusion that it was.

"What is it?" he called impatiently.

Weber entered, shuffling forward on his knees, his face studying

the carpeting.

"Your Majesty wished to be informed . . . they are on the move at


Ludwig sat up immediately, ignoring the pain in his head. "Are

they coming this way?"

"They have not yet left, Highness, but the carriages are in the

"What about the guard?"

Weber shifted his weight awkwardly from one hand to another. "They
. . . most of the farmers returned home last night."
Profanities began pouring from the king's mouth unbidden. His rage
sparked to life like a match being struck. The worst thing was
that he never seemed to be the one lighting it; nor could he
predict its blaze.

"Go get more men!" he screamed when he'd regained control of his

"Yes, Highness." Weber scuttled backward from the room and shut
the door softly.

Ludwig ran down to the hall to his study, which had the best view
of the east. He tore it open and peered out, trying to get a look.
But it was night—he hadn't even realized it was night.
Hohenschwangau was small from here, even in broad daylight. Even
so, he could see movement in the courtyard—torches. And horses,
many horses. Although he could not see them, he felt their life
force, ever so faintly, even across the distance.

He uttered a curse and stumbled backward. And there, in that

moment in the study, it entered his heart like Cupid's arrow—an
acceptance of the inevitable. He relinquished, finally, the last
thread of hope, of determination to complete his plan, to somehow
save himself, to have a life beyond this horror.

It would never be.

The rage sloughed away like a discarded skin, and what was
underneath was cold, stark fear.

"Mother of God," he pleaded. His knees wanted to buckle right

there, but he dragged himself back to his bedroom, pulling open
and then shoving shut each door along the way. It was a habit he'd
gotten so used to he didn't even notice it anymore. Block the
doors, block the line of sight, never let anyone see you.

And in the bedroom he stumbled to the chapel and closed that door
too, then locked himself in.

It was a tiny room, and he loved it that way, for he wanted the
arms of God around him, to feel, with the Virgin on the altar,
that he was in a womb, the blessed womb. But how he'd felt the
loathing of these walls— those arms—at times. Loathing for his
putrid soul!

He collapsed in front of the altar, hugged it.

"Mary, Mother of God, be with us poor sinners now and in the hour of
our death. ..."

And he reached out a hand and clasped the Madonna and child-—both
with faces pitch black after the Virgin of AltOtting—and poured
himself into her. He poured out his rage and frustration and
terror, and it oozed forth in thick globs as though he'd slashed
his psychic veins. He emptied himself, and for that moment,
emptying himself was all that he desired.

And when the torrent became a trickle, then stopped altogether,

the fear was gone and he was in a place of unnatural peace, like
the eye of a hurricane. Yes, they would come for him. But he
didn't have to remain in custody. He didn't have to allow them to
lock him up, to study him. His secret, his shame, did not have to
go down in the history books.

These were the things that terrified him. And like a child told
that although night would come, the light did not have to be
turned out, he felt enormously comforted. They could take his
body, but they could not force him to remain in it.

As for the other matter, the reason why he'd believed he had to
live, he suddenly, in a clear, calm voice, received the answer for
that as well. And he realized that he was free. He'd carried the
burden for a long time, and now he had no choice but to hand it to
another. It was not a matter of opting out; there was simply no
choice. He felt unimaginably lightened and wept tears of gratitude
as he thanked the Virgin profusely, tenderly, for her guidance.

Then he kissed her black face and went out to do what had to be

On the dresser in the bedroom was a gold and lapis box with a swan
on the lid. With steady hands and clear eyes Ludwig opened a
secret compartment at its base and removed a gold key.

This he took into the study to a large cabinet of carved wood with
turrets and fake windows—a model of Neuschwanstein itself. He
fitted the key into the lock on the door, opened the cabinet, and
gently removed three rolls of paper. Each roll was tied with a
scarlet ribbon. He carried them carefully to his desk.

From the bottom drawer he removed a piece of vellum so thin it was

transparent. A Wittelsbach crest and a Bavarian flag were placed
to either side at the top of the page. Four small swans etched in
blue and placed at odd intervals were the only other markings. He
carried the vellum over to the sitting area, where a blueprint of
the castle hung. He placed the vellum carefully on the glass,
lining up the flag and the crest with matching icons on the plan.
And then his blue eyes, still lashed as thickly as a babe's but
red-rimmed and exhausted, sought out the positions of the swans
carefully. One fell in the bedroom, just to the right of the
living room door. One was in the Grotto, at the bottom of the
left-hand wall. One was in the Singer's Hall under the third
painting on the left, and one was in the room at the top of the

He glanced around suspiciously, but there was no one there. There

never was.
He withdrew the vellum and took it back to his desk. Then he drew
out a piece of his finest writing paper and a new pen with his own
crest on the hilt. He opened his ink well and began to write.
June 17, 1886

My Sweetest Dove,

By the time you receive this letter, it will have ended for me. My Uncle
Luitpold and the traitors mean to finish me, to wrap me in their lies and
put me away somewhere. I cannot let that happen.

Oh, my beloved, you and your friendship make up the happiest memories of
my life! You have always been true to me, and I shall love you forever.
Please remember that, and know that I wish to bequeath you the world. I
must instead ask a terrible favor.

You have known something of my torment these past years. I have written
to you of the plan that I had for setting myself free of it. Well,
dearest one, it has become too late for me to complete this work. They
will not let me, though it means my soul! I can only beg you to believe
in me, to believe in the importance of the work, and to do your utmost to
carry it through. Will you, my only friend? Will you save your Ludwig?

Here is what must be done. I intend to hide, this very day, four
documents in secret compartments in Neuschwanstein. Enclosed you will
find a vellum that will reveal the locations of these compartments. Use
it on the map in my study. Remove the four documents you find in the
compartments and take them to the conductor in Munich.

Three of these documents are the three acts of a new opera. The fourth is
a diagram for a chandelier. Eight of these chandeliers must be built
exactly and placed in the Residenztheater as shown on the diagram. When
you have done this and the opera is prepared, you must invite the
following person to the opening performance. His name is Baron Rudolf von
Glower, and he lives in Prussia. Place him in the mit-telloge and make
certain that the sharpest and quickest armed guards are stationed near
the door and are prepared to protect the crowd with their life. This is
all. The rest, I believe, will happen naturally.

I know I sound insane, as insane as they say that I am, but if you do
this you will finally learn what has been my torment and you will see for
yourself my tormentor! More, if all goes as I believe it must, you will
have saved my immortal soul and admitted me to heaven.

May God grant you peace and love and an eternal crown for your never
ending loyalty and affection for me. I shall miss you. Your own and
forever Eagle

When he lowered his pen, tears were streaming down his cheeks. He
picked up the letter and blew on it through quivering cheeks. He
folded both it and the vellum carefully and found an envelope in
the drawer to enshroud his missive. On the front he wrote Empress
Elizabeth of Austria. Then he stuck the envelope in a pocket and
stood up, gathering the three parchment rolls to his chest like
To the Singer's Hall, up the stairs. And now he swore he could
hear the clatter of hooves on the road below the mountain, the
anxious grinding of carriage wheels.

The stairs were dark, and he cursed the servants. Every room,
every crevice, was to be lit by candles at all times! He called
out, but no one came. He placed one large hand against the wall
and mounted the stairs in darkness, his night vision providing
sight enough, though he hated to be dependent upon it, to feel the
unnaturalness of his own physiology.

The Singer's Hall itself was still lit, albeit with candles burned
nearly to the quick. He located the painting and knelt down
stiffly. How did these things work? He could remember vaguely,
being shown the compartments just after they were installed, but .
. .

He banged his hand against the wall over and over, left and right
and up and down. Just as his frustration threatened to rush in, he
heard a click and a piece of the wall popped up.

Yes. Yes, excellent, he thought. He'd never have seen it. It was
impossible to spot, even with his eyes. He tucked one of the rolls
carefully into the small compartment, then swung the panel shut.
All signs of it vanished at once.

He gave a sigh of satisfaction, then grunted as he pushed his

heavy frame upright. Down, down, down to the grotto.

The compartment in the grotto he remembered better, for it was on

the under-slant of a rocky protuberance just at the turn. He
banged his hand more softly this time, afraid that the fake
materials that made up the rock face would not withstand a
pounding. The compartment popped open after just a few tries. He
planted the second act of the opera.

Then the bedroom.

As he entered, he realized that the tower—his next stop—was

locked. They kept it locked, he ordered it locked, because its
entrance was between his rooms and the servants' and he always had
a nasty feeling about them sneaking up there (for what purpose he
couldn't fathom, but they hardly needed a reason to be vile). Now
he picked up a silver bell from his nightstand and rang it, hiding
the third roll of the opera behind his back.

Mayr, his valet, entered. He knew it was Mayr because of the black
mask that covered his face. An ugly face had Mayr. Ludwig could
not abide ugliness. In brutishness he saw an unmerciful reminder
of himself.

"Send this letter off with a messenger at once! And bring me the
key to the tower!" He held out his letter to Elizabeth.
Mayr reached up without looking, and the king placed it in his
hand. Mayr tucked it in his waistband carefully so that it would
not wrinkle, as he'd been taught to do. Then he hesitated,
kneeling there on all fours.

"What are you, deafT' the king shouted angrily. "Go get the key!"

"I believe it is lost. I shall go look for it," Mayr said.

"Find it," Ludwig thundered. "Don't look, find it. At once! And
get someone off with that letter!"

"Yes, Your Highness." Mayr crawled backward from the room.

Lost! Indeed!

He rushed to his bedroom window and pushed aside the heavy drapes.
Outside, the night was black, and the scent of it was tantalizing.
It was so seductive, night, like a black pool you had only to lean
toward to fall into.

"No," he said out loud. He shook his head and tried to

concentrate, to hear, to see anything that might be moving on the
road below. He heard horses faintly, but whether from the road
just out of sight or his own stock in the courtyard, he couldn't
tell. He let the curtain fall, feeling his anxiety outstrip his
nerve once again. He hurried over to the bedroom wall.

He glanced around—both doors were shut. He struck the wall again

and again. The panel popped open, and he hid the third and final
act of the opera.

Now the diagram.

He hurried into the chapel, trembling. Where was his calm, his
resolve? To decide to act had been a relief, but now the horror of
the next few hours began to impose upon him, like Jesus in
Gethsemane. He wanted it to be over, but he did not relish the
process. The thought that they might lay hands on him . . .

He muttered a quick prayer to the Virgin, but there was no time to

stay and seek solace. He picked up the diagram from the altar. It
was rolled tightly, as the opera had been, but this paper was as
thin as tissue. It had lain here since Wagner's death, a promise
to the Virgin, an oath that Sin would be conquered. He promised
her this once more in a muttered prayer and tucked the roll inside
the breast of his coat.

And then he did hear it, something on the path, a clatter. He

rushed to the bedroom and rang the bell again, loudly.

No one came. He paced. He rang again and screamed out Mayr's name,
Weber's. At last he heard scratching.
"Open it!"

Mayr crawled in.

"The key, the key, the keyl" Ludwig ranted, unable to bear it.

"I'm still looking," Mayr said, and he began to back out even
before he'd been dismissed. But Ludwig was too beside himself to
correct the swine. Let him go, then, let him go find that damn
key! Why were they all always so incompetent? And now his life,
his very soul hung on the idiocy of his servants, as he'd always
known it would. And they wondered why he raged so!

For ten minutes he waited, nearly unable to contain himself. He

considered hiding the diagram under the bed or anywhere else, but
no. Elizabeth would never find it there. He'd told her where to
find it already. It must go in the tower.

Surely he was panicking for no good reason. Surely his men could
hold them at the gate for at least a few hours. Surely what had
arrived so far was just a vanguard, and they would have to wait
down there and then discuss it the way that politicians do. Why,
it could be days!

There came a scratching at the door.

"Enter, Mayr, damn you to hell!"

Mayr slipped inside. "I have the key to the tower, sire."

He held it up in one pathetic paw. Ludwig strode across the room

on his long legs, his polished black shoes shining against the
rugs. He snatched the key and a candle from the bedside and,
unable to help himself, shoved Mayr down with one heavy thigh as
he headed for the entry hall door.

Mayr had shut the door, as always. And as Ludwig jerked it open,
he saw that the hall was dark. The candles were out, and that was
particularly odd for this room, the first room the servants had to
pass through to get to his quarters. Why had Mayr not lit them?
Why were things falling apart?

He paused there, silhouetted in the doorway. Beyond, shadows

danced away from the light, black and confusing. If he put out his
own candle, his eyes would adjust quickly to the dark, see through
the shadows, but he didn't want to put it out.

He hesitated. His heart beat loudly in his chest, sounding an

instinctual alarm. He told himself he was being paranoid. All he
had to do was cross the room and there, there was the door to the
tower. He couldn't weaken now, not now.
He began to cross quickly. And just as he'd reached the tower
door, just as his hand moved to put the key in the lock, he was
grabbed from behind.

He cried out in rage and fear and spun around. The vicious
movement of his body dislodged the determined hands, but as soon
as he'd turned they grabbed him again. A match was lit and a
candle. A man, a small white-bearded man, came walking slowly
toward him, holding the flame like a ghost.

"Your Majesty, it is the saddest action of my life that I now

perform. Four alienists have provided a report on Your Majesty,
and in the light of their findings Prince Luitpold has taken over
the government. I have orders to accompany Your Majesty to Schloss
Berg this very night."

He could have fought them. Might have wounded several. They had no
idea how strong he was. They had no idea. But the fight slipped
from him in the shock of the moment, the unreality of that little
man's face speaking those words. It was inconceivable that this
could really be done, that it could dare to be done to him. And
Berg, Schloss Berg, where crazy Otto lay: Berg of the insane.

Guilt and shame came upon him as thickly as it had ever done. I
deserve this, he thought. This is what happens to the damned.

"How can you declare me so? You have not yet examined me."

The small man smiled sadly. "Your Majesty, the overwhelming

documentary evidence is proof enough."

As Ludwig, once king, was led from the room, Mayr watched. He
slowly pulled his loathsome mask from his face, a triumphant,
mocking smile revealed. He took an envelope from his pocket on
which was written Empress Elizabeth of Austria and dropped it,
scornfully and with great intent, on the fire.

In Rittersberg, Gabriel moaned on the couch and twisted his body

as if seeking to flee the experience. Mrs. Smith, sitting upright
on the floor next to him, had fallen into a kind of panting
silence; a stillness that echoed after the long, steady drone of
her voice. She was sweating, her mouth and eyes pinched tight.
She'd removed her polyester suit jacket before they commenced, and
her dimpled upper arms were pale and clammy. Perspiration on her
lip and cheeks turned her heavy pancake makeup into a moist, clay-
like texture. Grace's face too was wet, though not for the same

Mr. Smith had entered after the pair had gone into their trance.
He got up now from his chair.

"I think that's enough," he said, moving toward his wife.

Grace was lost in the images knit by the words, but this
unexpected decision snapped her to at once. "Wait! The diagram! We
still don't know what happened to the diagram. Ludwig had it on
him when he was arrested."

Mr. Smith glanced at his wife, apprehension and reluctance reeking

from every pore.

"Please. We might not make contact again!"

Mr. Smith looked up at Grace sharply.

"A few more minutes," he agreed, and Grace knew that it was only
because he'd decided that this would not be repeated, whatever the
cost. He leaned close to his wife and whispered in her ear, "The
diagram, Mother."

And Mrs. Smith, beginning haltingly in a flat, husky voice, took

back up her narrative.

* * *

Horse hooves. Swaying. His eyes were closed, but he didn't need to
see the view to know where they were. Over the past dozen years
his sense of direction had developed until even conveyances that
were as unnatural as carriages could not throw him off. They were
a hard day's run from home now, and they were approaching water.
They were nearing Starnberger See.

He squeezed his eyes shut more tightly, unable and unwilling to

connect with what was happening around him. The carriage slowed.
The surface under the wheels changed to cobblestone. It was what
he had been waiting for.

He opened his eyes and saw that they were in a small town.
Seeshaupt. It was at the southernmost tip of Starnberger See, and
Berg castle was at the northernmost. They were stopping to change
the horses. The beasts were exhausted and quivering from the long
and steady pace they'd set. Ludwig could feel their racing

He offered up a prayer of thanks to Our Lady. This was exactly as

he'd hoped—that they would stop and that it would be someplace he
knew. The odds were in his favor, for he'd traveled most of the
routes between royal residences since childhood, and the route
from Hohoenschwangau to Berg was no exception. And this same area,
these same towns, had witnessed his nocturnal odysseys for many a
year. Yes, Seeshaupt was exactly what he needed.

But even as the carriage pulled to a stop, there were men in

uniform running alongside, men from the other carriages guarding
the doors.
He leaned down and forward to bring his eyes to the height of the
window and peered out over the heads of the men outside. It was a
dark night, and a light rain had begun to fall. Torches were lit.
The slick cobblestones glimmered in the flickering light.

In front of the carriage the men parted abruptly, and Ludwig felt
the approach of a diminutive doctor before he saw the white hair
emerge from between the guard's woollen coats. The doctor nodded
curtly at his charge and tapped lightly on the window. Lud-wig
pushed it open on its hinges.

"Does His Majesty require any services while we are here?"

Ludwig's heart lurched, and he fought to keep his face from

betraying him, to coax his voice into a casual and reasonable

"Across the way is the post office. The postmistress lives

directly above it. Would you be so kind as to knock on the door
and ask her to fetch me a glass of water?"

Gudden bobbed obsequiously. "Of course, Your Majesty."

He had a desire for goodwill, this little man. He coveted a veil

of affability over this brutal proceeding. Ludwig knew his type
well and despised it. Gudden was a politician, or he'd never have
been appointed to such a task, never have had his Uncle Luitpold's
ear. And politicians always kept their options open. After all, if
Ludwig was to somehow regain control, it would be wise to have
displayed mercy.

But Ludwig would never regain control and he knew it. Black
thoughts about Gudden, Luitpold, even about the men who drove this
carriage, threatened to swamp him. Bloodlust and revenge as black
as sewage drifted through his mind. He pushed them aside with
great effort. His eyes followed the doctor across the courtyard
and to the post office.

In truth, he was amazed that he was able to control himself now,

his rage, his fury, now when he'd had so little success at it for
so long. But this was the last round of play, the final yards of
his mad dash. He had little choice.

Gudden was knocking on the post office door himself, as Ludwig

hoped he would, to show the king that he was the humble servant,
whatever the current circumstances. And now the door was opening
and a pale, worried face looked out, then slipped back inside at
once to do what was bidden.

Ludwig leaned back to wait, his entire body heavy and tingling
with the rushes of dread and adrenaline, with the struggle to
suppress the need to hurt, the urge to flee that washed through
his veins.
It will work. If I'd asked to use the bathroom or stretch my legs,
they would have followed me, guarded me, but this is one single
old woman performing a servile task. They will let her pass, and
they will turn their backs to us, unthreatened, uninterested. It
must be so. It must work!

And when he opened his eyes, he could see Frau Vogl in a dark
shawl and skirt, hurrying across the square, a glass held up and
out in front of her like a lantern, her skirt skimming the wet

He sat up, his mouth dry. He reached a hand inside his coat and
felt the parchment of the diagram there. He pushed the window all
the way open.

And she was standing there. The men, as he'd hoped, parted and
stood about, their backs to the carriage, their eyes looking out
as if watching for a mob perhaps, or even a lone loyal farmer with
a pitchfork.

Frau Vogl held the glass toward him and turned her head. Her face
fell into the light from the lantern hooked in the driver's seat.
It was drawn and anxious. He'd sat in her rooms and had tea with
this woman.

"Are you all right, Your Majesty? Is there anything I can do?" she

He took the glass of water from her slowly. "Yes, there is

something you can do, most urgently!"


His eyes shifted, intently taking in the creatures that surrounded

them—none were looking. He slipped the rolled parchment from his
coat. "Hide this."

Frau Vogl hastily took the parchment and tucked it into her shawl.

"It must be sent to Elizabeth," Ludwig whispered. "Empress

Elizabeth of Austria. And tell her . . ."

He stopped, swallowing painfully. In his anxiousness to accomplish

this new plan he'd been carried on a wave of intent. And now that
he was about to complete his goal—to smuggle the parts to
Elizabeth, to lay the burden of the task at her delicate feet—as
his last chance at instructions were parting his lips, he suddenly
realized that she might fail.

After all, hadn't he?

"And tell her that if for any reason she is unable to complete the
plan that I outlined for her in my letter, if the man I spoke of
manages to ... to retain his freedom, then she must ..."
He paused, his heart burdened with fear and self-pity. He could
see the little chapel in Neuschwanstein where he'd so often poured
out his soul.

". . . must take this diagram and place it with my heart in the
urn at AltOtting. It is to be a token to the blessed Virgin of my

Frau Yogi's eyes were wide and dismayed. It seemed to strike her
at once the exact circumstances of this odd party in the night.
Her face contorted, aghast, but to her credit she did not protest
or argue. "I will tell her just what you have said, Your

"Thank you, Frau Vogl."

"Your people love you, Your Highness."

"I know."

Then Gudden was there and his slick smile bade Frau Vogl good
night. Ludwig settled back into his seat, not wanting to see the
polite nod aimed his way, the false sheen of congeniality, or
anything else the night had to offer.

It was finished. He had done all he could do. Now there was left
only to prepare himself for what came next and to find the means
and the moment to accomplish it.

Gerde brought in cold compresses. Mr. Smith was trying to guide

Mrs. Smith's padded frame onto the floor, for she looked ready to
fall over, her limbs trembling with fatigue. She had gone silent,
her voice winding down and down and finally stopping completely.
And still her eyes were pressed shut, her face ghastly. He was
calling to her now, over and over.

Mother. Mother. Mother.

And even in the silence it was clear that they were, both of them,
still back there.

Mr. Smith gently lowered his wife to the floor. He rolled her onto
her back and took a cold cloth, bathed her face with it, repeated
her name loudly.

Mother. Mother. Mother.

Grace crawled on her knees over to the couch. Gabriel wasn't

moving at all. He was utterly still, as if lost in a deep sleep,
and behind his lids his eyeballs jittered as if riding the
dreamland express. His skin, which was pale anyway, had gone fish-
belly white. The brown dots of his freckles stood out in mute
contrast, exaggerated and startling.
"Gabriel?" She leaned forward and spoke in his ear, but there was
no response. She reached back and grabbed the second cold towel
from the bowl and began wiping his brow with it. She recalled how
intent his emotions had been earlier and the physical agony he'd
been through in the night. He always seemed so vital, so
rebelliously alive, but now a worry filled her. If this process
could wipe out Mrs. Smith, what might it be doing to his already
taxed heart? Particularly since he'd just expressed to her his
desire to give up, to admit defeat.

Just kill me.

"Gabriel?" she said again, sharply, and she shook his shoulder.

Late afternoon. The daylight was still bright enough to aggravate

his headache and sting his sleepless eyes, but Ludwig forced
himself to pull back the curtain of his room and look out. He'd
requested another walk, and he saw the guards gathering in their
long coats.

Beyond, the lake shone as the sun, already beginning its early
winter descent, broke from the dark clouds. It turned the choppy
green surface of the water to a bruised white that merged with the
clouds above.

He dropped the curtain and turned to pace, wringing his hands in

agitation. The room they'd locked him into was one of the guest
suites, and the small dimensions of it were hopelessly unamenable
to his long stride.

If he could just get alone on his walk, or even with Gudden and,
say, one guard, he thought he could accomplish it. But not with
more than that. With two or more guards the risk of failure was
too great, and once he tipped his hand they'd never let him alone
again; he'd be watched day and night. He had one advantage and one
advantage only—the conviviality of the good Doktor Gudden, the
sense he'd managed to instill that he was cooperative, beaten,
sane. He'd courted that feeling this morning on their walk,
feigning an interest in the doctor's career. The guards had gone
with them then, but he'd hoped . . .

It must be soon. He could not hold out much longer under the
mental strain, could not dam up the rage and hopelessness much
longer, and the thought of it happening here, the Change, in front
of that horrible little man ... It was so utterly profane.

A light tapping on the door.

"Come in," Ludwig called politely.

Gudden's cheerful face appeared. "Are you ready? The temperature

is quite pleasant outside, Your Highness."
"How kind you are," Ludwig said. It was so out of character that
he felt the awkwardness of it hang visibly in the air, but Gudden,
who knew him not at all, only smiled in a self-congratulatory way.

"Your well-being is my duty and my pleasure, Your Majesty." The

man even bowed before gesturing toward the open door.

They were walking down the hall when Ludwig said, "I wanted to
speak to you of my uncle."

Gudden tilted his head to one side curiously. "If you wish."

"There are certain things that must be imparted to him if he's to

rule in my stead."

Gudden turned to look at him with amazement. "I must say, Your
Majesty's good nature makes quite an impression."

"My people come first," Ludwig said humbly.

They emerged into the late afternoon air, and Ludwig gulped it
down desperately, his veins singing with the terrible strain of
his claustrophobic confinement. How insufferable after only one
night and one day. How not to be borne!

Four men stood to attention, their rifles on their shoulders.

"We'll go alone," Gudden said casually, with a dismissive wave of

his hand. He did not even pause as he said it, but continued to
walk down the path. Ludwig followed, his face composed but his
heart pounding frantically.

"I am anxious to hear your advice," Gudden said magnanimously.

"No more anxious than I am to give it," Ludwig said, forcing a

smile, "when we have achieved a bit of privacy."

Mrs. Smith had wakened and she was propped up against Mr. Smith's
chest, too weak to rise from the floor. She was crying softly,
sheets of tears running down her face, but whether it was from
what she had seen or sheer emotional and physical exhaustion was
unclear. She could not even gather reserves enough to speak. Her
brown eyes merely watched as Grace tried to wake Gabriel. And now
Gerde too was calling his name, tapping his cheeks, shaking first
one arm, then another. The two women glanced at each other, their
eyes frightened.

"Help me," Grace said, moving to push an arm under his back. They
attempted to raise his immobile form into a sitting position.

Gabriel, wake up. Gabriel. Gabriel.

Gudden was talking, talking, on and on, and Ludwig was not
listening to any of it. He was watching the banks of the lake,
watching for a good place, for the right spot. The path curved,
following the water, and on either side were trees and grass. And
now the path was dipping out toward the water, out to meet a
natural beach, the trees falling away on their right.

Ludwig checked his watch. They had walked twenty-five minutes.

Soon, Gudden would suggest they turn back, but there'd be no
turning back today. Twenty-five minutes was far enough, far enough
that they might not hear Gudden when he called and if they did it
would be over by the time they arrived.

He'd read everything about his condition that he could get his
hands on, and he'd questioned Louis repeatedly. Although he'd not
often received a straight answer, he knew enough. He knew what had
to be done. He'd found sources.

Anything that completely destroys heart or brain so that

regeneration can not be facilitated. Or death by the elements:
burning, drowning, being suffocated by earth—buried alive.

He had not the courage to inflict such a devastating wound to his

head or chest, or the means in his confinement. And even had he
the courage and the means, the chance of fouling such a blow was
too great. As for fire, he could not begin to contemplate the
horror of burning alive. But the lake, surely it would not be too
horrible to swim out, to open one's mouth. And if one could induce
one's mind to still its instinct long enough to take in that first
unnatural breath, would the rest not follow swiftly? He prayed it
would follow swiftly.

The doctor was still rambling as Ludwig turned and began walking
with long strides directly toward the lake. As he crossed the
beach he unbuttoned his coat and shrugged it off, as if shrugging
off life itself. Gud-den was saying Ludwig's name or some such
nonsense as Ludwig's boots hit the water and the mud began sucking
at his great weight, pulling at his legs as he strode purposefully
out, deeper and deeper.

And now Gudden's calls became cries of alarm. Help! Help! And the
water was up to the king's thighs. Its coldness shocked him, and
his heavy wool pants made his steps sluggish. He continued wading
out, slowed a little, and the icy water reached up for his most
intimate parts.

He never even heard the splashing behind him, so intent was his
purpose. Gudden's hand reached out and grabbed him as the water
chilled his belly— grabbed him insistently, urgently.

"Your Majesty, in God's namel"

Ludwig shook him off, but the doctor was back at once, more strong
and determined than Ludwig had anticipated. This time Gudden
attempted to wrap his arms around the larger man's body, to pull
him back toward the shore.
And rage, like a black fruit so ripe it burst, filled Ludwig with
its bitter juice, its tang biting cleanly through his despair.
Before he was even conscious of a decision, he had turned and had
Gudden's throat in his large hands and was pushing him, pushing
him down.

And felt the pleasure-pain sweep through him like an orgasm, heard
the horrible, guttural sound that he knew was coming from his own
throat, felt the dark, urgent craving.
No. Not now. Not now!

He furiously pushed Gudden, sending the man careening back into

the water, anywhere, just away. Gudden came up once, briefly, his
mouth gasping, his face white and lost, before sinking back into
the water.

But Ludwig had already swung around and was striding forward, his
breath heaving, his face set with a dreadful determination.

The water pulled at him languorously, resisting his attempts to

march, insulted at his insolence in treating it like dry land. The
currents tugged gently, playfully at his legs. The water lapped at
his shirt, its icy fingers teasing his chest, turning his heaving
breaths into gasps at the coldness. He felt the rage seep from him
into the water, the beast pull itself back inside like a tortoise
drawing in its head, not liking what it saw.

And still he walked forward, holding his arms straight up in the

air for balance. He could see the surface just below his head, so
darkly green here, so opaquely bottomless, a foreign kingdom, a
new world.

By the time the water reached his chin, he was thinking of Louis.
And for the first time in many years it was not all bitterness. He
remembered how it was before all that. Louis, his black curls
falling on his broad, muscled shoulders. Louis, his firm jaw and
tender mouth, his eyes that burned with passion and danced with
intelligence and wit. Louis, who loved luxury, silk frills, and
velvet jackets, so complementary to his romantic beauty. And yet
underneath the gilt there was a body and a will that were hard and
unchal-lengingly male, like something from a fairy tale, like
Lohengrin himself perhaps, or Siegfried.

How addicted he'd been! How helpless in the face of that

perfection! How trapped by that beauty, enamored with every
gesture and nuance! What a garden of earthly delights he'd found
in the man's arms.

And how he'd paid for it.

"Curse you to hell," he said softly, tears welling up in his eyes.

"May God damn you, my love."
And then the water covered his mouth, stilling his words and
washing away his tears. And his heart was so numbed by sorrow,
what followed next came without too great an effort of will. He
simply opened his mouth and took the water in like a lover. * * *

Gabriel sat straight up, gasping and choking. He pushed away the
hands and the voices of concern, instinctively knowing that he
needed to focus only on clearing his lungs of the conviction that
water filled them, to get oxygen to a brain that was convinced
that it had none, to get his mind untethered from the journey it
had been about to make and back into this reality, here, while he
still could.

When it was clear that he would not choke to death, he heard Grace
quietly ask the others to leave and was grateful. Only part of his
mind was yet in the present, and that part was still filled with
emotions that were not his own. The room quieted and fell silent
as Gabriel lay back and closed his eyes—the modern, jagged-edged
man fighting to reassert itself over the softer, more tormented

Grace sat down in a nearby chair and began to rock, waiting

patiently for him to tell her the end of the story.

Mrs. Smith had quite recovered herself by the following morning

when Grace found her in the gasthof. But there was a sadness
around her eyes that lingered, like the red light of a reluctant
sunset. Grace slipped into the booth opposite her.

"Where's Emil?"

"Oh, he already went up to call Sissy and tell her we're staying
on a few more days. I'm running slow this mornin' myself."

Werner brought hot tea, knowing Grace's likes by now, or at least

using that as an excuse to come over. She declined breakfast, but
he lingered, as obvious and distracting at the edge of their table
as only a very tall old man can be. Grace invited him to sit.

"I wanted to talk to you about Ludwig's plan," Grace told Mrs.
Smith. "I've been wondering if it would have worked. I stayed up
last night going over the werewolf lore book again."

"Then you probably know better than I."

"You have to burn them," Werner suggested balefully.

Grace glared at him. 'Wo, you have to destroy their heart or their
brain. A bullet in either location would do it, if the lore book
is accurate. I suppose we'll have to hope that it is."

Werner shrugged. "Better to be safe and burn them."

Mrs. Smith changed the conversation with smooth diplomacy. "What
have you come up with, dear?"

Grace sighed. "I've been thinking about the opera. Ludwig's letter
to Elizabeth implied that he didn't have to be present to have it
lift the curse. He obviously thought the armed guards would kill
the black wolf when he was forced to change in the middle of the
opera house."

"Yes, that's the way I took the letter too."

"But wouldn't Ludwig have had to pull the trigger himself?"

"Ja, wouldn't he have to pull the trigger himself?" Werner echoed,

leaning forward on one long forearm and stroking his white beard.

"No." Mrs. Smith shook her head. "Culpability is a heavy thing. In

the spiritual realm—and in magick— a man who hires an assassin is
just as guilty as the man who pulls the trigger. Ludwig and Wagner
planned the opera, bought the chandeliers, laid the trap. If the
trap had led to the demise of the black wolf, Ludwig's soul would
have been freed."

Grace bit her lip, pondered. "So if we can get the opera produced
now it might still free Ludwig."

Mrs. Smith nodded. "And Gabriel." She laid a warm, dry hand on
Grace's and squeezed encouragingly. "I do believe so, dear.
Otherwise, why all these dreams? Why have you learned about the
opera after so many years of its being lost? Ludwig has helped

Grace assented with a tilt of her head; she'd accepted this days
ago. "But what about Gabriel? Are you sure he can have enough . .
. culpability in this thing for it to free him as well?"

"Ja," echoed Werner, "can he?"

"He's the one who found the Black Wolf again, isn't he?" Mrs.
Smith replied. She lifted her coffee cup to her lips and
finished off its contents. "Would you mind, Herr Huber?" she
asked, showing him its empty proportions.

Reluctantly, Werner got up to fetch the coffeepot. As soon as

he'd left, Mrs. Smith leaned forward.

"But we should make sure he's involved in all the plans, just to
be safe. Financially too, if possible."

"That's not a problem. There's still money left over from our
last case."
"And he must be willing, Grace. He must will it." This last was
said with a low and insistent hush.
Grace's brow furrowed. "Of course. How can he not want it?"
Mrs. Smith looked somber as she picked up an envelope from the
seat beside her and handed it to Grace. "This came for him this
morning. The postmistress showed it to Werner, and he snagged
onto it and showed it to me. Goodness knows, he shouldn't have
taken the thing, but he meant well. Everyone's a bit at a loss
as to what's right in a situation like this."

But Grace wasn't listening. She was staring at the return

Von Glower.

The envelope stayed with Grace for a number of days. She didn't
want to show it to Gabriel, despite Mrs. Smith's disapproval of
the delay. She was afraid to.
Inside the envelope were a letter and the talisman, which von
Glower must have found at the ravine. Grace supposed it was
awfully big of him to return it, then realized, with some
trepidation, that it was more likely a matter of self-confidence
than self-sacrifice.
It was the talisman more than anything that forced her to
finally show the letter to its rightful recipient. She knew how
badly Gabriel felt about its loss, and there was no easy way to
explain its return. She gave it to him one morning just before
leaving town. She and Georg had already retrieved the opera acts
at Neuschwanstein—it had been a simple matter of distracting the
guards. The niches at Neuschwanstein had never been found; the map
of their location had been burned by Mayr along with the letter to
Elizabeth. The three acts were unmarred.

On this day Grace was headed to AltOtting to get the diagram. She
was taking Mrs. Smith because there were only so many half-truths
she could make up for Georg. Besides, Georg was busy in Munich,
astounding and blackmailing his brother Claus, and working on
getting the new opera onto the summer festival schedule.

She handed the letter to Gabriel as he sat in the dining room

after breakfast. She said nothing in explanation, only gave him an
unreadable look and left.

At AltOtting, she and Mrs. Smith sat through service after service
in the tiny chapel, waiting for the room to clear so they could
get Ludwig's urn down from its place along the top of the wall.
Grace could not stop thinking about the letter. She feared that
when they returned to Rittersberg, Gabriel would be gone.

Even when Mrs. Smith, in a kind of rapture after seeing the statue
of the Black Madonna and child in the inner sanctum, whispered to
her that she believed they'd found the spirit guide at last—she
that was in the cards as the High Priestess—Grace felt little more
than momentary interest.

It was not the High Priestess that concerned her, but that bit
about The Lovers and duality.

I know you are very ill right now. The change is always painful. I went
through it myself when I was only twelve, and I did not even know what
was happening to me. I'm sorry I am not there to help you, but I have a
pretty clear sense that you would not welcome my presence. You are safe
in Rittersberg. For now that is enough. Let me speak, then, of the

You hate me now. I know this. But I have some hope that by the pass of
the second moon, when the sickness wanes and the blood has inflamed the
greater part of you, you will see things differently. You will need me
then and, I think, you will want me then.

It is for hope of this that I did not have you destroyed the night you
were bitten by von Zell. I could have done so. You were passed out for
hours at the lodge. It would have been a simple thing to wake the men,
show them von Zell's corpse, and make up a story that would enrage them
enough to kill you. I did not. Let that be proof of my true desire for
friendship with you.

I have desired companionship for more years than you have lived. I have
even, very rarely, taken the risk and Changed others. But the Blood was
always too much for the brain, and my Chosen One ended up dead. Or mad.

This is why I started the hunt club. It was my idea that if I could first
indoctrinate men's minds to the religion of tooth and claw, they then
might be prepared for the Change. As you have seen, it did not work. Von
Zell was the best of the lot. If he had turned out well, I would have
taken the others. But there's no point in even trying with them now.

You are different. You're a Ritter. Your blood is already supernatural.

Yes, I know of your family. It was a Ritter that captured my own father,
Claus von Ralick. I never blamed you, even though I myself would have
been killed had not my mother had the foresight to flee. No, it was not
your ancestor but my father that I hated for years, until I learned to
appreciate his legacy.

You see, I have studied much over these centuries. When you and I met, I
felt instinctively that you would not be destroyed by the Change. You
have an enormous streak of the beast in you, and you are innately strong
in the Occult. You will be powerful and beautiful in the Change, I am
sure of it. I did not intend for it to happen so soon and in such a way,
but perhaps fate has its own reason.

But how confused you must be. You may feel I used you to dispose of von
Zell. I did. He had to be taken care of, and you obligingly showed up.
What was I to do? I am too old not to have learned at least this much
about the light—you cannot shut it out. Better to let it in and let it
simply dim to adjust to the relative brightness inside. But the warmth
between us, this was genuine, I assure you.
Think well on these things as your body adjusts. Think about meeting me
in Munich in two months' time. We can leave Germany if you wish and go
anywhere you like. I will teach you how to hunt, how to live safe and
well. You can feel the night wind on your face, exalt in running free,
taste the heartbeat of the kill beneath your jaws. It is glorious—much
more so than the priestly life the Schattenjager offers.

Don't confuse yourself with ideas of good and evil. Nature shows us that
there are no such distinctions. You and I both inherited something from
our fathers. Is your legacy any less of a curse or blessing than mine?
Join me.

With deepest affection, Friedrich

Gabriel was thinking about duality too as he put down the letter.
There was something else in the envelope—-he'd known as soon as
he'd picked it up. Gabriel stretched out a finger and sent it
tentatively inside. His finger touched the cool gold of the
talisman, and a harsh jolt of pain raced up his arm. It felt as
though the meat were being torn off the bone. He withdrew quickly
and uttered a muffled sob.

He'd expected as much, but to have it actually happen was more of

a rejection than he could bear. He wondered how Friedrich had
managed to touch it that night when he'd picked it up from his
chest. But then, he'd wondered how Friedrich could manage many
things. It seemed that in two hundred-odd years he'd quite
mastered his condition. Or perhaps being a birth heir, an alpha,
made it easier on him somehow. Perhaps he'd gone through all
this as a child or even in the womb.
More than anything, Gabriel thought about that day at the lair—
Friedrich emerging, face shocked. Gabriel was beginning to
realize that he had not been acting. After the Change, Gabriel
himself remembered little. Was von Glower's exploration of the
lair his first opportunity to come face to face with the Black
Wolf's victims? With the true smell and sight and texture of his
alter ego, his grand philosophy? No wonder he had been so moved.

But not—or so the letter showed—enough to give it up.

The lair. That was what he kept coming back to. He sat in his
bedroom at the castle, staring at the wall. He wondered at his
attraction to the club, to the philosophy, to Friedrich himself.
He remembered this attraction well; there was no denying it. And
he knew himself well enough to admit that he'd been custom-made
for such a siren's call. Hadn't he always believed in living for
the moment, doing whatever felt right and to hell with
conventional, straitjacket morality? He considered anyone who
did otherwise robots of society, didn't he? Not free men, not
open-minded men, not livers of life.
Yes, he admired the philosophy still.
But there was Preiss's rutting, von Aigner's gluttony,
Hennemann's drunkenness. And then there was the lair. Was this
the harsh face of moral freedom?

He wondered what his own hidden lair was. It was the first time
he'd realized that he was sure to have one.
When Grace returned at six o'clock, he was already in the
dungeon, lying under a thin blanket on the cot. He heard the
tentative knock and Grace's voice. "Can I come in for a minute?"
Reluctantly, he said yes.
"We got the diagram," Grace said after Mr. Smith left them alone.
But on her face was something else, something more pointed than
this piece of news.


Her hands twisted nervously. "You read the letter?"

His jaw clenched and his face closed guardedly. "Yes."

She stood there, looking at the floor. "Oh. Well, I was just
wondering. I mean, do you want us to go ahead with this? Or ... ?"

For a long moment Gabriel said nothing. Grace glanced up at him

once and, seeing his face, blushed deeply and looked back at the
floor. She started to say something, then stopped uncertainly.

"Of course we're going ahead with it," Gabriel said in a tightly
controlled voice. "And please, don't ever, ever ask me that

Grace had the intelligence to look guilty. "I'm sorry. It's

just... I thought you should be allowed a choice."

"I made my choice long ago, Grace. Long ago." He said this coldly
and turned to face the wall.

And Grace, realizing the depth of her error, slipped out silently.
Der Fluch des Englehart
(The Curse of Engelhart) by Richard Wagner
Act I

Many years ago in a small German village, there lived a young man
named Engelhart. Engelhart was a lowly blacksmith's apprentice.
Being orphaned, and having lived with the blacksmith in virtual
slavery since his parents' death, Engelhart had nothing in the
world to claim as his own. Nothing, that is, but an amazing
talent. For ten years the beautiful wares that had passed for the
blacksmith's own had actually been wrought by Engelhart. The
blacksmith, a greedy and vain man, forbade Engelhart to ever work
the metal in front of another living soul. But the blacksmith's
ingratitude went further still. He was so plagued with envy that
he treated Engelhart like a lazy and worthless dog. The other
villagers followed suit.

Now in the same town there lived a rich baron and a young maiden,
Hildegunde, who was lovely and good-hearted. Hildegunde was the
only one who took pity on Engelhart and was kind to him. Engelhart
loved Hildegunde madly, but was too shy and too penniless to speak
of it. In the first act, we learn that Hilde-gunde's parents,
blinded by prospective fortune, have betrothed her to the baron.
Hildegunde is terrified and protests that the baron is reputed to
be evil, but her parents demand her obedience. Poor Hildegunde
reluctantly agrees.

The baron, with great public ceremony, sends Hildegunde a

betrothal gift of a silver bracelet. But the bracelet is
accidentally ruined when Hildegunde, overcome by anger, casts it
into the fire. She is immediately remorseful and pulls it out, but
it is too late; the delicate silver has been badly marred.
Hildegunde approaches Engelhart and begs him to help her.
Engelhart thinks of his master's warning, but decides to disregard
it for Hildegunde's sake. He melts down the silver and constructs
another bracelet, identical to the first. When Hildegunde sees
Engelhart's great artistry, she falls in love with him. But the
couple's mutual bliss is momentary—what about the engagement? The
young couple, knowing the baron will never relinquish his claim,
decide to run away.
Act 2

The baron hires hunters to track the lovers down. In a public

trial, Hildegunde pleads their case in a stirring aria. She tells
the townspeople of Engelhart's great skill and his mistreatment by
the blacksmith. The blacksmith should be turned out for his
cruelty and Engelhart given the shop. Then she and Engelhart can
marry and live in peace with their neighbors. Her parents chose a
groom for her, but she begs to be allowed her own choice.

It is then the baron's turn to speak. He declares that he has been

terribly injured—a victim of a wayward girl. His marriage claim
was first—there can be no other! He implies that if the villagers
do not help him, he will remove his aid from the village coffers.
Then the baron turns to Engelhart. By the rights of the injured,
the baron announces, he is empowered to set a curse. The baron
curses Engelhart with a terrible and ancient malady—that whenever
the moon shines in the night, Engelhart will become a marauding
wolf. The village is terrified of wolves, and has been plagued for
years by a renegade black wolf that has taken the lives of many

The baron further declares that he will still marry Hildegunde,

but not until she renounces Engelhart with her own words. Until
she does, he will keep her safe from further shame by locking her
up in a small room at the top of his house.

The villagers side with the baron. Hildegunde goes to her prison,
and Engelhart does indeed become a wolf at night. At first
Engelhart is hated and feared by the villagers, but soon rumors
circulate about Engelhart the wolf. He is always careful not to
harm any human being or any domestic stock. In fact, he scares
away robbers and keeps the renegade wolf at bay. No more children
are lost to the fangs of the night. The villagers begin to respect
Engelhart. And Hildegunde, when she hears of his successful
mastery of the curse, commits herself to him forever.

The baron's plan having collapsed before him, having given

Engelhart dignity rather than removed it, he flies into a rage. He
tells Hildegunde that he will marry her anyway, and on the morrow
at that. She will become his wife, or he will see to it that her
parents' lives are forfeit!


The final act begins with the wedding feast for Hildegunde and the
baron. Hildegunde has cooperated, but now she is horrified to find
herself the baron's wife. After her poignant opening aria, the
baron tries to draw her back to the party. He orders more food and
calls for the entertainment.

In strides a traveling show of minstrels. They play and juggle and

do acrobatics. One of them, a mime with a tragic frown painted on
his face, seems to want to hover near and amuse the bride. She
ignores him, depressed and tearful, and he does his best to make
her laugh.

After the amusing antics of the minstrel's first song, the music
grows dark and menacing. The minstrels mimic serious stage players
and run and tremble and hover around the room. They gather in a
circle around the frowning minstrel. As they whirl around him, he
slowly sinks from sight. Suddenly, the minstrels burst apart like
petals, and standing in the center of the room is ... a wolf. The
villagers scream and the baron lurches to his feet. But Hildegunde
cries out that it is Engelhart! The wolf does not attack the
crowd; it lifts its head and howls.

The baron screams at the wolf to stop, and he screams at the

villagers to kill the wolf, but they only stand and stare. The
baron begins to pull his hair and gnash his teeth. He gets up and
makes it to the center of the banquet hall, where he falls down in
a heap of wedding silk and lies still on the floor. What emerges
from the pile of silk is ... another wolf—the renegade black wolf!
The baron-wolf runs through the door and into the night. Engelhart
leaps after him.

The final scene takes place in the woods outside the village. The
villagers follow wolf tracks. They sing of the ferocity of the
battle between the two wolves. Hildegunde answers the villagers'
excitement with her fears for Engelhart's life. The crowd emerges
into a clearing. There the two wolves are engaged in a final
deadly embrace. As they watch, Engelhart triumphs and the baron-
wolf sinks to the ground.

The baron dies, but Engelhart is mortally wounded. His curse has
been broken by the baron's death, but it is too late. Hildegunde
sings her love to him while the villagers pronounce him a great
hero. Engelhart dies, and all mourn in a sorrowful final aria.

Chapter 8
Residence Theater, Munich
Grace paused to straighten the large placard in the lobby. It had
been knocked aslant by some scurrying worker or another, and it
tottered on the edge of the stand's metal prongs as if threatening
to jump.

The Curse of Engelhart by Richard Wagner in its triumphant debut

performance, the placard announced in German. And at the bottom,
Conductors Clans and Georg Immerding. Munich opera festival.

She frowned at it worriedly. She'd convinced them to keep the name

and composer secret until tonight. It had not been easy, but then,
nothing in the past three months had been. Georg had convinced his
brother Claus to put the new opera at the top of the summer
festival, replacing a production of Lohengrin. And although the
Lohengrin funds had paid for much of the event, there had been
overruns. Gabriel's funds were tapped to pay these and, naturally,
to buy the chandeliers, which had been outrageously expensive.

But they had pulled it off, thanks to Claus's ambitious desire to

be the first to bring the new Wagner to the world. Grace had no
idea how much von Glower knew of Ludwig's plans. Hopefully, he
knew nothing of them, or at least not enough to become suspicious
the moment he walked in the door this evening and picked up a

She sighed and headed for the auditorium.

* * *

As feared, things were not going to plan. Where she'd hoped to see
a finished product, she saw instead that the last bit of
scaffolding was still in place, and that two of the workmen were
still attempting to affix the eighth and final chandelier.

On stage, the soprano solo from the beginning of Act III was being
given one last run-through. The aria still sent chills down her
spine, despite the fact that she'd heard this thing a hundred
times or more in the past few months. The chills had a more
ominous cast today.

"Herr Silbermeier?"

The chandelier foreman glanced at her warily. "Very close now."

"I know you're working as fast as you can, but we're opening in
one hour."

"In one hour it will be done."

"No! But I ..." Grace took a breath and tried to sound calm. "I
told you, I need to run through some music once you're done."

Silbermeier grimaced. "You're lucky we even could make these in so

little time, then drive them down special this morning."

"I know," Grace said, forcing a smile. "And I appreciate it."

Herr Silbermeier's sullen eyes challenged hers. It was clear that

there wasn't anything she could do to rush him.

"All right," Grace sighed. "But you installed them exactly

according to the theater diagram, right?"

"As good as we could."

Grace gripped a nearby seat as the floor swayed beneath her. "What
do you mean 'as good as you could'? I gave specific instructions
that the diagram was to be followed exactly."

She sounded shrill even to her own ears. Silbermeier frowned and
pulled out a copy of the theater diagram from Wahnfried. He tapped
the name at the top. Residenztheater, Munchen.

"This is the Residenztheater, yes? But not the same

Residenztheater. They rebuilt it. After the war."

Grace looked around, aghast. The theater looked antique—with

cherubs and angels and gods and various other baroque adornments,
now all faded and chipping. Even the red seats were threadbare.

"But everything looks so old!" she protested.

"Yes, they take everything out and save it. Then, when war is
over, they make a new building. Put back in the pieces from the
first one. They did this in many buildings in Munich."

It dawned on Grace that he was telling the truth, the way a

perfectly obvious and perfectly critical answer one had missed on
a final exam occurred to one later, in the hall.

Somewhere out there, Silbermeier was still rattling on: ". . .

this one is a bit smaller. So we put the chandeliers same distance
to each other, but there's less space to walls. Here and here."

He pointed out the areas, but Grace was too overwhelmed to do more
than glance at the diagram. "I see. Thank you, Herr Silbermeier."

Yes. Thank you. Thank you for pointing out what an idiot I ami I'm a
goddamn history major, for Christ's sake! I should have known.

But somehow, in the midst of everything else, it had simply never

occurred to her. Grace moved away, feeling quite ill. She told
herself it would work anyway—that it had to work. Surely the
acoustics couldn't be that sensitive. And, really, it did not bear
thinking what would happen if they were.

Grace drifted down toward the stage, barely conscious of her

actions. Claus spied her first. "Grace, there you are! We really
need to let people go. We've only got . . . God! Less than an

She nodded dumbly. "The chandeliers won't be ready in time for the
test run. They can go."

Claus looked relieved. He clapped his hands and dismissed the

nervous singers, following them backstage. Georg remained at the
conductor's stand, paging through the music intently.

She could have used a kind word, but Georg had his own troubles.

"God!" he groaned. "I'm not ready."

He stared at some dreaded stanza or other. Grace took a deep

breath and put a hand on his arm. "Relax. You've done well. You've
done all you can do." It wasn't clear if she was telling him or

"Have I?"
"Of course. It's too late to worry about it now anyway. So enjoy
it—this is your big debut."

But Georg's stricken face and shaking hands revealed a massive

case of stage fright. "I know. I'll probably be fine once the
music starts. It's a great opera, Grace. Wagner's best. You don't
know what it means to me that you—"

"Shhhh" Grace hissed with a dire expression.

Georg laughed. "All right! I won't reveal your secrets. Assuming I

even knew them, that is." He looked at his watch and his anxiety
returned. "God, I can't believe the time! I'd better go get
dressed myself."

"Wait! Before you go . . ."

"What is it?"

Grace tried to look innocuous. "Um, I just wanted to say that . .

. Well, given that this is the first performance of a new Wagner,
the crowd might be kind of volatile."

"An opera crowd?"

"Well, yes. I mean, it's an emotional thing. So I wanted to

suggest that you ignore any distractions that might occur. No
matter what happens, just keep playing. Particularly in Act III.

Georg looked at her as though she'd asked him to conduct in the

nude. "Grace, what are you talking about? This is the debut of a
brand-new Wagner. I'm not going to ... to stop if the Maestro
himself comes floating out on stage!"

"Great. That's all, then. That's all I wanted to say." Grace

forced herself to smile at him.

Georg shook his head as if to rid it of the confusion and reached

for her hands. "A kiss for luck." He leaned down and kissed her
cheek awkwardly; then he jogged up the stage steps and was gone.

"Good luck, Georg," Grace called after him.

It was answered only by the increasingly sour weight of
trepidation in her stomach.

She knew she ought to go back to the office and check on Gabriel.
But after what Silbermeier had told her, she wasn't quite ready to
face him. She ran upstairs instead, to the old spotlight room
she'd found earlier. As promised, a crew member had delivered one
of the powerful new spots they'd borrowed from the theater next
door. She opened the little door in the wall and wheeled the
spotlight over to it. She turned it on and saw a bright circle of
light hit the second tier seats opposite. She moved the handle in
back until the beam was focused on the Mittelloge, the large box
at the rear of the theater, just over the entrance doors and main
aisle on the first floor. The spotlight lit up the box—it was
certainly bright enough. She turned it off, careful not to shift
the position, and left the room to go check the box itself.

Everything had been cleaned yesterday, and the Mittelloge was in

perfect order. Three rows of four, four, and three chairs
respectively filled the box, but not all of them would be occupied
tonight. Von Glower had been sent tickets for two with seats in
the front aisle of the box—a gift, the card said, from an admirer.
Kommissar Leber and one of his men were to be the only other
occupants. The empty seats here were the only ones in the house.

Back in the hall, Grace pulled the door tight and latched it. She
tested its strength one last time. Once secured, she thought it
would hold. The doors hadn't had a lock, so she'd had a
locksmith come by and outfit one last week. The key was down in
her purse in the theater office.
And now that there was no other excuse she could think of for
avoiding it, she headed down there herself.
Gabriel was lying on the couch, a blanket covering him. His
fever and sickness had lessened steadily over the past month,
until he'd seemed almost normal except for a persistent aching
in his joints and a tendency to want to sleep in the daytime and
be up at night. But with the stress of the performance, and all
that was riding on it, he'd had a bit of a relapse the past few
days. She could see him shivering under the blanket's meager

She knelt down by the couch and brushed back his hair. Yes, he
was quite warm.

"Not the hair, Grace," he muttered.

Grace smiled. "You've looked better."
"Looking better is my specialty," he answered without opening
his eyes. "Are we ready for the test yet?"
Grace tried to sound nonchalant. "I'm sorry, but there's not
going to be time for the test. The last chandelier's still going
up. It'll be done in time for the performance, but we won't get
a run-through."

He opened his eyes. They had deepened in color to a dark, slatey

green. The dark circles beneath them underscored the brooding
impression. "Grace, that is not acceptable."

His temper, she could feel, was close to the surface. She smiled
sympathetically at him, her heartbeat going up a notch.

"I know it's not," she said. And waited.

No explosion came. Instead, he shivered again, his teeth
chattering. "I'm so cold."
"I'll try to find another blanket."

"What about some heat? Can't we get any goddamn heat in here?"
"I'll go check."

"What time is it anyway?"

Grace looked at her watch, her eyes unwilling to believe what it

said. "Urn, six-thirty. In a half hour we're opening the doors."

"Should I go downstairs?" he asked, starting to get up.

Grace thought about the old prop room in the basement. It too had
been outfitted with a new lock. She'd wanted Gabriel to wait in
Rittersberg, but he'd utterly refused, so they'd compromised on
the basement. The lock was in case the earplugs didn't work.

"I still have to get a few things ready downstairs. Why don't you
rest here? I'll come get you when it's time."

He laid back reluctantly. "We shoulda tested it, Gracie. We won't

get another chance."

"It'll work out," she replied firmly.

From the lobby there was a flight of steps to the basement just
behind the grand staircase. Privat, the sign over the exit said,
meaning not for public consumption, and the basement certainly
wasn't. But Grace had been down there several times. She hurried
through the archway and descended the stairs.

The basement of the theater was a bizarre, rambling structure of

hallways and unlikely rooms, low ceilings and strange, banging
pipes. It was like a maze, only with old cement walls where green
hedgerows might stand. And if there was a geometric pattern that
made some kind of sense, it was outside the grasp of the average
human mind to comprehend. There were hallways that formed a rough
rectangle along the perimeter, but the inner halls seemed to have
been planned by a child with a crayon.

Grace had come down once during rehearsals, and the reverberating
sounds of the orchestra and the voices above had a surreal majesty
here—an echoing otherworldliness. The effect was enhanced by the
music's contrast to the setting, this dank, musty, bowels-of-
the-earth space, as if one were Alberich, the earth-bound
Nibelung, hearing the clear, clean sounds of the Rhine Maidens.
She went into the old prop room and tried, hastily, to provide a
spot of comfort in it. She found a chair and wrestled to get it
clear of the fray. She brushed it off and placed it in the small
clear space she'd made. She shivered, for the basement was quite
cold, despite the fact that it was June. She'd have to find some
way to remedy that.

She wished Gerde or Mrs. Smith were here—either one would be

better suited to this nest making task than she. But Gerde swore
she couldn't take the suspense of tonight's grand finale. She'd
stayed home, where she would wait for a simple word by phone.
And the Smiths had returned to the States weeks ago. With the
plans for the opera in place and Gabriel achieving some measure
of self-control, Mrs. Smith said she felt they'd played their
role. She hadn't given Grace any "impressions" about how things
would turn out. Grace wasn't sure she wanted to know.
She left the prop room and hurried through the hallways. She was
heading for another room she'd stumbled upon down here, the
furnace room. She rediscovered it off the main southeast
corridor. Inside was an enormous old coal-burning stove. It
wasn't running at the moment, but a large bin of coal stood next
to it, a shovel set in it askew.

She opened the bottom drawer of the stove and filled it with
coal, getting her hands smudged in the process. She located the
pilot button and pushed. The stove made a swooshing sound, then
clicked steadily. The flicker of blue and orange flames tinted
the glass in the window in the furnace door.
She messed with the control panel for a moment, turning the heat
to the auditorium down and that to the basement up. Satisfied
she'd done what she could to make Gabriel's interment bearable,
she headed back upstairs.

When she emerged back in the lobby, she saw an usher heading for
the doors.

"Paul!" she said to him, alarmed.

"There you are!" he answered, turning anxiously. "It's time to
open the doors."

Grace looked at her watch, stunned. He was right. It was seven


"Oh, God!" Grace muttered. Her stomach did a slow and painful

"There's a big crowd in the street. We must let them get seated or
we'll have to start late."

"Can you give me just five minutes? Please, Paul. Oh, and you're
going to see two special invitations tonight, both for the
Mittelloge. One is for a Kommis-sar Leber. Would you show him to
the office, please?"

"Okay." Paul looked at his watch. "I open the doors in five

Grace hurried down the hall to the office. She found Gabriel

"It's time to go," she said, trying to evince a confidence she

didn't feel.

He nodded curtly and brushed past her. When she caught up with
him, he was almost to the lobby.

"It's a bit cold down there, but I started the furnace," she
chattered. "It should warm up quickly."


As they entered the lobby they could see the tuxedo-clad ushers
standing by the front doors. Paul was looking at his watch,
counting down. Grace could hear the murmur of voices from outside,
and by the glance Gabriel shot in that direction, she knew he
could hear them too. After all the planning, it was impossible to
believe this was really the night, that it was about to begin.

But they said nothing to each other, just crossed the lobby and
descended the basement stairs. Gabriel went unerringly to the old
prop room, though she'd shown it to him only once. He must, she
realized, have thought about it often.

Considering the way the diagram of the theater so focused the

chandelier X's and the lines of measurement on the Mittelloge,
Grace thought it unlikely that the music would force a change to
Gabriel down here. They had no way of knowing that for certain,
though, particularly since Gabriel was still trying to master the
He had told her once, in a moment that was exceedingly rare
because he rarely discussed it at all after that first day, that
the only thing close to the urge to Change was the flu. When the
flu strikes and the nausea hits bad enough to wake you up in the
middle of the night, you lie there, trying to tell yourself that
you can go back to sleep, that the nausea isn't that bad. But with
each minute that passes it worsens, slowly, so that you wonder at
first if it's all in your mind, if perhaps your desire for it to
go away is actually emphasizing the sensations that are really
there. It grows like that until you begin to toss and turn,
certain there's a better position to lie in, some way that your
stomach will find soothing. And you find those positions
momentarily, but then the sickness grows in those positions too,
like water seeping in through cracks. And eventually the pain of
it, the nausea, becomes unbearable, intolerable, and you get up
and you go in the bathroom and you hang out there for a while,
feeling the waves grow, until you cannot stand it any longer and
the purging comes. And after that purging there's a brief respite
before the build-up begins all over again.

That same progression happened with the urge to Change, Gabriel

said. Only it wasn't just the stomach that was affected; it was
the entire body. Every muscle and nerve began to grow uneasy and
twitchy and eventually screamed for transformation, for that
brutal, wrenching scratch of a hideous itch.

When he'd told her this, it had still been in the early weeks, and
she'd since thought that the urge must have lessened over time,
for there are fewer nights now when the cries came in the town
square. But he'd never said as much.

"I was planning to get a cot down here and some food and things,"
Grace said as she swung open the door and flicked on the light.
"But I just plain ran out of time."

"It's fine, Grade." He walked past her and took in the room with a
sweeping glance. Then he put his hands on his hips and tapped his
foot, still looking around.

"It's going to go like clockwork," she said, feeling a rush of

pity for his trepidation.

"It better."

There was more that she wanted to say, but now was not the time.
So she gave him a smile and closed the door. She took the shiny
new key from her pocket and turned it in the lock. From within she
heard nothing.

She had walked down the hall a few steps when a sense of guilt
overcame her. She hadn't wanted to tell Gabriel about the rebuilt
theater. She'd been afraid of what he would do. His rage was so
easily provoked, and it was savage. She hadn't been going to tell
him at all, but now that he was safely in the prop room and she
was leaving him for the last time until it was over, she was
invaded by a sense that her silence wasn't fair. He was the one
with his life on the line tonight. He had a right to know.

She went back to the door and stood there hesitantly. "Urn,

"Yeah?" His voice was muffled through the door.

"There's something I think you should know. You know how they just
finished installing the chandeliers? Well, the foreman made me
aware of a, uh, a small problem."

She paused, but from behind the door there was only silence. Then
he said, very softly, "What problem?"

Grace leaned against the door, hating every second of this. "Well,
it turns out that the original Resi-denztheater was bombed in the
war and they rebuilt it. This one is similar, though. Real
similar. I mean, very, very close. They reused the seats and the
woodwork and everything. But . . ."

She paused again, and this time there was no sound at all from
behind the door.

"But this one is slightly smaller. The distance between

chandeliers is the same as on the diagram, but there's just a bit
less distance from the chandeliers to the walls."

She bit her lip and waited for a response. The response was not
what she had been expecting. Without warning, something struck the
door with incredible force. The wood shook beneath her hand, and
there was a loud boom that snapped like a gunshot. She recoiled,
gasping, and in the next instant understood that he'd struck the
door with his fist.

"Grade, goddamn you!" he screamed, his voice engorged with rage.

"You goddamn bitch! I can't believe you did this! You did it on
purpose, didn't you?"


"You open this goddamn door this minute, do you hear me? THIS

"No," Grace said, backing away.

"THIS GODDAMN MINUTE! If you can't manage a simple fucking

diagram, I'll take care of things myself, do you hear me? MYSELF!"

The door shook again under the cracking blow of his fist. The knob
shook violently.
"I'm—I'm doing the best I can!" Grace said, tears making her voice
crack. Then she turned and ran down the hall.

She stumbled up the stairs into the lobby, still sobbing, and came
face to face with sequins and furs and tuxedos. The shock was so
great that the tears died instantly in her throat. The buzz in the
lobby was electric; the audience hummed with astonished excitement
over the revelation of the mysterious festival opener. Grace
stared, her dark eyes wide and still moist.

At last she realized that she was drawing attention. She looked
down and blushed—she was not only still in jeans but she was
filthy from coal dust as well. She pushed her way across the
lobby, heading for the office.

She was slipping her green satin sheath over her head when a knock
came on the office door. For a moment she was afraid that it was
Gabriel, that he'd gotten out somehow, but she realized it could
be anyone—Paul the usher, or Georg.

She zipped her dress hurriedly. "Come in!"

The door opened to reveal a portly, bald-headed man with a florid

face and a tight tuxedo. He nodded curtly. "Are you Miss

"Yes. Kommissar Leber?"

"Ja. They said you wanted to talk to me?"

"I do! Come in, please."

Leber shut the door and fingered his collar. "What is this about,
Miss Nakimura? I got in the mail two invitations with a note to
come armed. Did you send them?"

"Yes, I did. You see, we thought it might be a good idea to seed

the audience with a few officers this evening. This is the debut
of a new Wagner, and we worried that there might be some . . .

Leber frowned. "Why did you not hire security?"

"Uniforms make people uncomfortable," Grace lied. "I thought a few

plainclothesmen among the audience wouldn't hurt, and we'd be
providing a few fine public servants with a night at the opera as
well." She smiled graciously.

"You are lucky I like music," Leber scowled. He parted his coat to
reveal a bolstered gun. "I brought with me also my associate,

"Great. Thank you so much for putting up with all this." Grace
stepped forward, hoping to move Leber to the door.
"Is it really a new Wagner?" he asked hopefully.

"It really is, Kommissar. I hope you enjoy your evening."

He was beaming as he walked out the door.

Grace found her shoes and checked the contents of her evening
purse again to make sure she had everything. By the time she
reached the grand staircase, the crowd in the lobby was thinning.
The lights overhead flickered once, twice, in warning.

She went up the stairs and passed the Mittelloge doors, her pulse
quickening as though she were passing a rattlesnake. She went
straight to the spotlight room. From the little window she could
see the audience settling in down below. The faces were excited,
and the rumbling of voices was eager.

She dug her new opera glasses out of her purse. She had to work
her way around the spotlight since she dared not move it. After a
moment she locked her glasses on the Mittelloge.

And as the lights were dimming down, she saw him in the box.
There, in the center of the front row, sat von Glower. He had with
him a beautiful blond woman, elegantly coiffed, and behind him sat
Leber and Statter, bruisers in tuxes, plump and out of place.

But it was von Glower that mesmerized. It was him, really him, the
Black Wolf. And she could see instantly why he'd always attracted
conquests and not jailers. He was truly beautiful. There was even
a kind of odd innocence, a boyish charm in his face that Grace had
not expected. Even an air of ... tragedy? Her heart skipped a
beat, and she could imagine what Ludwig had felt that first night,
spying on him, as she was, from across the theater.

How brilliant Bismark had been.

She almost felt sorry for him. She shook off the feeling. The
important thing was that he was there, in the box, and by the eager
smile on his face and his hushed whispers to his date, he suspected

She lowered the glasses, her mouth dry, her palms moist inside her
gloves. Down below, the orchestra began.

He hoped they heard him upstairs—the crashing and the banging. He

picked up another missile—this time a side table that weighed half of
what it looked like it ought—and sent it careening into the opposite
wall. It burst apart into fireplace-sized pieces.

Somewhere inside, he knew this sheer destruction was puerile. He'd

regret it later, probably. But that reasoning was not getting much
head room at the moment. At the moment his rage was a locomotive, a
steam engine stoked to full speed. It took a long time to stop
something like that. It would be a while before he'd even want to.
His blitzkrieg maneuvers had nearly cleared one wall. A single item
remained, a large painted panel that showed a tree-lined river. The
thing was against the wall for a reason—it was six feet wide, about as
tall, and very thin. Without pausing in his outburst, Gabriel plowed
into it. He couldn't get his arms around it, so he lifted it from the
bottom and tilted it up and then over. It slid across Gabriel's bent
head and shoulders and crashed to the floor behind him.

It made a satisfyingly loud bang.

He was about to turn around and go after the hapless thing again when
his eye was drawn to the wall where the panel had been. There was a
vent on the wall with a metal grate. There was a grated vent on the

He blinked at it for a moment, Then he picked up one of the legs from

that damned table and went after the grating.

The basement hallway was lit by bare, hanging bulbs, but had the
feeling of darkness. Perhaps it was the musk of the underground or
the way corridors branched away so helter-skelter, as if leading
off into dead space.

Had there been anyone in this particular section of the basement,

they would have been quite alarmed at the violent banging that
came from the outward-facing wall. It would have taken a moment to
locate that sound at the air vent, and by then the thin metal
grate was already bending out, crinkling in the middle like tissue
paper—the old, painted-over screws around the perimeter buckling
under the pressure.

And then the grating flew across the hall and banged against the
far wall, crashing to the floor. Feet appeared—boots, and a body
followed. Gabriel swung himself to the ground, still breathing

From the gaping vent the breeze of the June evening blew over him.
The air duct he'd found in the prop room emptied out into the
street behind the theater. When he'd reached the street, he'd been
gripped with an almost unbearable urge to slip into the night, to
let the blood run its course, to stalk. He couldn't resist popping
off the thin screen covering and sticking out his head to breathe
deeply. And while taking this breath, he'd heard the click of high
heels approaching on the cobblestones, and the stab of carnal
desire, desire to not only plunder but to rend so suffused him
that he cried out loud. The heels hesitated, as if hearing the
cry, and he used the moment to pull himself back inside, to take
an adjoining air duct back, back into the safety of the basement.

He stood there now, shivering in the hall, the cooler air reaching
in past his hot rage. Or perhaps the shivering came from some
other place altogether, from that place where his mind twitched at
the reins of control. He kicked the fallen grating, sending it
spinning down the hall. Then he headed for the rear stairs—the
ones that led backstage.

The stairs that connected the basement and the backstage were
located against the far wall in relative shadow. So that Gabriel,
standing there, his hands on the iron railing that guarded the
well of the stairs from becoming an accident hazard, could observe
the scene unnoticed.

The music was louder here and clearer, less dreamlike. He felt
himself becoming more lucid, as if the sounds in the basement had
been some drug that confused him. He listened carefully and heard
that they were doing the trial scenes—they were well into Act II.
He felt a surge of panic, and his heart—so large and foreign in
his chest these days—added a heavy bass drum beat to the

Is he out there? Is he watching? Listening? Has he fallen for it,

or was he too smart? He's so goddamn smart. Is he here?

He closed his eyes, shame and fear swamping him, threatening to

take him somewhere he did not want to go.

He's here. Believe it.

After a while he was able to open his eyes and creep stealthily
from the stairwell.

The backstage area was congested with enormous backdrops, with

large props on wheeled dollies and ropes and pulleys and
mechanical rigging. The crew was identifiable by their heavy
jeans, T-shirts, and silent-soled tennis shoes. The singers
themselves usually congregated on the edges, but there were no
costumed players in evidence, for the trial scene involved

On stage, the baron was laying the curse, the music dark and
menacing. His role was bass, and the singer's deep, bell-clear
tones could fire the soul of the most obdurate cynic. They
vibrated through the backdrop, and even the crew slowed a little,
Gabriel crept toward the dressing room. A youth spotted him, a
grip, and his expression of alarm made it clear that the look on
Gabriel's face—no doubt accompanied by the usual deathly paleness
and bruised circles—was not quite up to passing as normal. Gabriel
struggled to smile pleasantly.
The grip must have recognized him from rehearsals, for he didn't
raise the alarm. He only smiled back, as nervously as a rabbit
smiling at a coyote, and went over to check some bit of rope that
didn't need checking.

Gabriel stepped into the back hall. At the doorway he saw a large
roll of silver duct tape on a table and confiscated it. It was
clutched in his shaking palm as he worked his way past wardrobe
rollers and shoes. He'd heard the singers griping about the
dressing rooms, and now he could see why. Even the public parts of
the theater were faded and in need of restoration—backstage was

The door he wanted wasn't difficult to spot. Someone—no doubt the

lead tenor himself—had tacked up a handwritten and star-bedecked
sign that said EN-GELHART on a thin, white-streaked door. Gabriel
opened the door and stuck his head inside. The room that greeted
him was tiny and empty, and it looked as though the tenor had
managed to claim it all for himself. Gabriel smiled—a dark,
hungry-looking smile— and slipped inside.

The time raced by. The music was magnificent, pounding. But
Grace's consciousness kept drifting to a million things, a
thousand ending scenarios, and when she tuned back in she was
always amazed at how quickly the opera was passing. The bracelet
love scene, the flight through the woods, the trial. And then,
amazingly, it was intermission.

The spotlight beside her had remained silent and dark, a weapon
lying in wait. It felt like an old friend now, so closely pressed
to it had she remained since the music began. She couldn't resist
staring at the Mit-telloge through her glasses, though she could
make out little and the strain hurt her eyes. Von Glower had not

She wished there was enough light to see the details of his face.
What did he think of the werewolf plot line? Did he imagine that
Wagner knew? Or did he assume that Ludwig's part in the libretto
had shaped it in his own image without Wagner really understanding
the truth beneath the fiction? Was he amused at Engelhart's
supposed mastery of the curse? Of the representation of the evil
renegade wolf? Did he feel that Ludwig had been a fool? Or was he
capable of shame, embarrassment, resentment?

Did he have any idea what happened next?

When the lights came up, Grace was ready, her glass trained on the
Mittelloge with painful intensity. Von Glower was smiling, his
face dreamy, his eyes warm and amused and sparkling with energy.

He loved it.

Grace let out a low moan of relief, and became aware of how
stiffly she'd been holding herself. Her fingers and her toes had
gone cold and numb. She stretched a little, her glasses still
trained on the box.

Von Glower rose to an intimidating height, limbs unfolding like a

dragon's wings. She could not believe the breadth of his
shoulders. His black tuxedo was expensive and immaculate; his
white shirt and tie were blinding. He offered a hand to the woman
beside him, smiled at her and said something, something excited,
probably something about the opera or the music.

Leber and Statter were already out the door.

Grace sighed again as the tension left her body. It was one of the
last danger points. By his expression, she didn't imagine von
Glower was about to leave. No, he'd be back in his seat for Act

She couldn't resist slipping out of the spotlight room and

following him with her eyes as he went down the stairs with the
crowd. She stood at the upstairs balcony and watched him purchase
wine, sip it, and chatter excitedly—first to the woman, then to
several people near them as heads and eyes turned, caught by his
fire. She watched him and listed to the breathless buzz and words
of praise and high, bright squeals of excitement all around them.
The energy of the audience was infectious.

Then the lights blinked their warning, and Grace followed him with
her eyes back up the stairs, fingering the key in her purse as if
afraid it might disappear.

The music had begun by the time she took her place at the
spotlight. The first piece, performed with the curtain closed,
with an instrumental prelude to the wedding feast.

The key had turned softly in the lock, as she'd known it would.

Hildegunde's aria—"Song to the Moon"—swept the theater into a

sorrowful melancholy. Grace spared a rare glance for the stage and
saw everything in place there—the villagers gathered for the
feast, the wedding table laden with food, the baron in his finery
and Hildegunde's parents waiting patiently for the bride at the
table so they could begin. And Hildegunde herself, framed by a
spotlight and off on her own, spilling out her anguish at the
nuptials to the silent moon above.

In the Mittelloge everyone was seated.

Ba-BUM\ The drum beat entry on the minstrel's first song was
unmistakable. The clarinets piped in with a high, playful stutter.
Grace's ears followed this progression closely, but her eyes were
glued to the opera glasses, and the glasses were trained on the

She was therefore not looking at the stage when the minstrels
appeared and began their upbeat introduction, a scene that
involved juggling.

Wagner, impractical as he could often be, had wisely scripted the

minstrels as silent. This not only worked for the story, but it
also made it feasible to cast actual jugglers and acrobats in the
roles, vocal talent not being a consideration. The exception among
the group of five was Engelhart, of course, and the tenor who
played him had been the bane of the jugglers' existence for lo
these many weeks. Fortunately, the libretto called for Engelhart
to repeatedly screw up as part of the comedy. Unfortunately,
"screwing up" on cue could be as difficult as juggling correctly.
Much time had been spent on getting the choreography right.

And now, focused as Grace was on watching the dark and unmoving
figures in the box across the way, she gradually became aware of
the laughter of the audience. For such a staid crowd, they were
doing a great deal of tee-heeing. Grace didn't recall the scene
being quite that funny. Her ears tuned into the villagers' chorus.
Was it her imagination or did she detect a bit of faltering unease
in those voices?

Frowning, Grace shifted her glasses to look at the stage.

The minstrel's costumes were bright and jester-like, their faces

painted in white and red so as to hide En-gelhart's identity. The
four professional jugglers were scrambling, not quite in the right
places. One was chasing after a ball, and Grace realized, with a
sense of dread, that they'd screwed up for some reason— really
screwed up. The juggler found the ball and came bounding back. The
group tried gamely to reassemble before realizing that they were
already supposed to be in their next position. They reformed into
a line, and one of them roughly pushed Englehart into place and .
. .

Grace stared, her breath stopping in her throat. She leaned

forward as if that would help, unable to believe what she was

Engelhart was not Engelhart. Beneath the makeup the face was not

Gabriel. Gabriel was on stage.

"Oh, my God," she said out loud. "Oh, my God"

She nearly dropped the glasses down on some hapless viewer's head.
She pulled herself back into the room, gasping, panic ripping
through her.

"Oh, my God!"

For an instant none of it made any sense, and the conviction that
it was all over, that the entire thing was ruined, loomed over
her. It was beyond her what on earth, what the point, what he
could possibly be thinking . . .

And then she knew. She knew exactly what he was thinking.
She moaned, low and anguished. She was so agitated that she became
dizzy, her body starting to shut down. She put her head between
her satin-covered knees and took deep breaths.

Outside, out there on stage where no doubt everyone except the

audience was very confused, the final beats of the drum closed the
juggling song and the audience applauded and called their approval
with great relish. "Englehart" had apparently done an apt job of
looking clueless.

And then the swirling dark strings began, the swirling dark pull
of the strings, tentative now but they would build soon, build and
build. Warner's masterpiece: the transformation aria.

She collected herself because she had to. There was no time to go
downstairs, to get backstage, to try anything at all. The music
was moving on, and soon, imminently, the time would come; either
she would be at the spotlight to man it or she would not. There
was no time to stop Gabriel now, whatever the consequences.

She sat up carefully and placed a trembling finger on the

spotlight's on switch.

The villagers drew back in mock horror as the jesters stalked

about, their arms raised menacingly, their painted faces pulled
into snarls.

The baron rose, indignant. . . .

What is this dark business? It's my wedding day!

But the guests were entranced. The blacksmith pointed out the new
pantomime: the hunter, the hunter, tracking his prey.

And indeed, the minstrels had drawn imaginary bows. They stalked
the edge of the stage, looking into the audience for some
imaginary foe as the strings throbbed.

Let them continue, It suits my mood, urged Hildegunde.

Englehart looked a little ill behind his jester's paint. He tried

to follow the moves of the other minstrels, but soon he was
hunched over, trembling. The other minstrels "discovered" their
quarry, one by one. They closed in on Engelhart as the tempo
escalated. They circled his shivering form, widely, air bows held
taut and aimed, faces diabolical. The violins shrieked a warning.

In the Mitteloge, the smile of the dark man faded. A light sweat
broke out on his brow. He shifted uneasily in his seat, his eyes
trained on the stage.

The tempo gathered speed and so did the minstrels. They circled
Engelhart, not with measured, stalking steps, but at a gallop now,
spinning around and around as their prey clutched his stomach and
sank slowly to the floor. The strings began to scream as the
minstrel circle tightened, still spinning, until Englehart was
hidden entirely from view.

Below the stage, a crewman walked into the pit. He carefully

placed his stool in a predesignated spot and opened a trapdoor. He
shoved a furry mask and gloves up through the opening. They were
flung back in his face, the trap pulled shut. He stood there on
the stool, eyes wide, too terrified by the momentary glimpse he
had caught to make his hand reach back up and open the trap again.

In a small dark room in the upper right-hand side of the theater,

a woman in green satin leaned out a window, opera glasses trained
fiercely on the stage.

While the conductor waved madly, trying to chase the tempo to

enormous speeds, and the strings screeched in protest and fury,
light tinkling could be heard—if anyone was close enough to hear
it, that is—coming from large crystal drops on the brand-new

The blond woman in the Mitteloge whispered to her companion, Are

you all right?, for his face was a deathly gray and his eyes had
reddened. The arm she was holding quivered as though subjected to
a mild electrical current. He nodded unconvincingly and rose from
his seat. He stumbled toward the door, one hand pressed to his

The two large men seated behind the couple turned to watch the man
pass. The bald one frowned suspiciously.

The dark man reached the door and tried to open it. The handle
would not yield. The door was locked. He turned and flattened his
back against the door.

The crystals were shaking in the chandeliers above, vibrating, but

lightly and intermittently, like a wind chime on a mildly breezy
day. If they were built to withstand storms, they weren't getting
much of a trial run today.

And the strings, as the minstrels whirled, could not go any faster
or squeal any higher.

The heavyset bald man stood and asked the dark gentleman if there
was a problem with the door.

But the gentleman had recovered himself a bit. His breathing,

though still heavy, sounded more relieved than embattled, as
though he'd just finished a long run. He removed a black
handkerchief from his black pocket and wiped his face carefully.
He offered a polite reassurance to the bald man; then he
straightened, still a bit wobbly, and headed back to his seat. He
seated himself and took a steadying breath, smoothed back his
hair, and smiled. His smile held a kind of wild and ugly relief,
like a killer walking away with a last-minute pardon from the

The vibration of the chandeliers was not enough; the trap had

The woman in green did not see any of this. Her eyes were locked
on the stage. She was waiting for the next part, the part where
the minstrels burst apart, so that she could see Englehart once
more. She had forgotten the spotlight entirely.

She remembered it belatedly, cued by something familiar in the

score. But by then the moment was upon her. Without even turning
to check the Mittel-loge with her glasses, she reached over and
flipped the switch.

The four people in the center box, resettled only seconds ago,
were suddenly blinded by light. The bald man, who was enjoying the
performance very much, lost his temper at this latest
interruption. He cursed loudly and placed a pudgy hand over his
brow, trying to see what the hell . . .

On stage, the minstrels burst apart. Only it was not choreographed

as it was in rehearsal—with a kind of triumphant presentation.
They disintegrated, uttering sharp cries that were barely heard
over the cacophony of minor chords being pounded out by the

And standing in the middle of the stage, the place the minstrels
had so hastily vacated, was a large animal—something like a wolf,
only squatter and more brutish, less natural, more hideous. The
singers on the stage reared back, some bumping into the banquet
hall walls, which swayed. A few even fled the stage altogether
though, with the music still going, most were professional enough—
or confused enough—to remain.

The audience looked at the creature. At first there was silence

and then, after a beat, enormous applause washed through the room.

The woman in green, astonished, thought: They believe it's a

stunt. Perhaps it was because they couldn't quite see the teeth
(you wouldn't be able to get past the teeth), for the creature's
head was thrown back, and now something joined the strings,
something high and eerie and unreal.
In the Mittelloge, where the light had prevented anyone in the box
from seeing anything on stage, the bald man got up and went to the
door, irritated at this intolerable distraction and damned well .
. .
He heard a scream and turned.

The dark man. He was rising to his feet slowly, and his body was
being racked violently with convulsions. He screamed again. It was
a scream of outrage, of protest. His face was swarthy now, a
horrible gray, and he no longer looked elegant or boyish. He was
frightening. Something about him was wrong, was not right at all.

The woman beside him edged out of her seat. Her words were
sympathetic, but her eyes were terrified and her movements spoke
of instinctual escape. And the bald man too had instincts and they
were thrumming. He unbuttoned his coat and placed a hand on his

Meanwhile, the sound, that one unearthly sound that did not
resemble any instrument anyone in the audience had ever heard save
two—the dark man and the woman in green—went on, not as loud as
the orchestra, surely, but cutting through the music anyway,
cutting right into a person's soul.

That perhaps was why most eyes in the audience were still riveted
on the stage, despite the fact that some lighting screw-up had
caused a portion of the upper seats to be lit. But the woman in
green was watching the Mittelloge. She was watching intently.

The dark man hunched down, eyes darting around madly. Beneath his
black coat things . . . shifted. The bald man drew his gun and
shouted a warning to the dark man, a command.

And the dark man, before anyone could anticipate it, placed a hand
on the balustrade and leapt over it. In one graceful gesture he
gathered himself and leapt right over it, and then he was sailing
through the air before landing, with a grunt, on the red-carpeted
aisle a story below. For a moment he crouched there, panting and
uttering a low, growling sound, his brow, his face starting to
blur, and then he spun around, ignoring the startled faces in the
seats around him, and bounded from the auditorium through the
double doors.

The woman in green muttered a curse and stood, causing the

spotlight to fall with a crash. On the stage, the creature that
had been Engelhart lowered its head, its eyes searching the crowd.
It tensed its haunches and sprang toward the audience.

A few souls mingled out in the lobby, ushers mainly, and they
screamed as the human-like crouching thing in a tuxedo careened
from the auditorium into their midst. It headed for the front
doors first, but they were closed tightly for the performance. It
continued around the perimeter, people diving to get out of its
way, then it disappeared down the open archway with the descending
stairs, the one marked PRIVAT.

In the Mittelloge, which was suddenly dark once more, the bald man
held his gun in the air with one hand and pounded on the door with
another, shouting to be let out.

In the pit, the young conductor, eyes wide, face devastated, was
still conducting wildly. The orchestra followed, watching him
leerily. They could not see the stage, but they could see that he
was losing it.

And the singers, after missing several bars, collected themselves

in time for the final line. The blacksmith was against the prop
wall, which was fortunately still standing. He reached over and
grabbed a torch from a sconce. Holding it up in a trembling hand,
he managed the closing line of the scene.

Let's go follow the wolves.

This all happened in the same instant, and in the next, a

creature, truly a creature this time, bounded out of the
auditorium into the lobby, stopped momentarily as if sniffing the
air, and then dove down the basement stairs.

This seemed to be the moment for which the basement was built. Or
perhaps when built, it was not nearly so dark and dank and eerie.
Perhaps it had become that way progressively, like a backdrop
molding itself to an anticipated play.

Whether any or none of this was true, what was true was that
something was going on in the basement. Not something, Something
rather, the kind of Something that most human beings would never
believe and would, in their heart of hearts (where they knew
exactly how vulnerable the tethers that hold the rational mind to
its mooring really are), choose not to know.

Even Gabriel's rational mind chose not to know. Even, to some

extent, von Glower's. The creature that shared Gabriel's altered
DNA did not know many of the things that Gabriel knew. There was a
gap there— a kind of segmentation that was necessary, not only for
the mind of the beast, but more important, for the mind of the
human, that kept either experience from becoming too conscious of
the other.

Yet the Gabriel-thing knew this: it knew that it was stalking the
von Glower-thing. And it knew precisely what it had to do once it
found its target. Whether or not it could do it did not enter its

It paused at the bottom of the stairs and sensed the air. One of
the things it could access from its human memory was spatials,
location memory. It knew the basement in an odd, schematic way. It
could remember, for example, the prop room, and even had a vague
fear of being confined there.

And now, aided by its sense of smell, it knew other things as

well. It could easily smell the tantalizing drift of fresh night
air, and it knew the direction from whence it came. It could smell
its target, too. . . .

And it knew the target was heading for the fresh air.
It ran quickly down the corridor to the left. As it rounded the
turn and saw the open vent, it saw too that the black wolf was
heading toward it down a side corridor.

But the brown wolf had gotten there first.

It snarled at the black beast, lowering itself down on thick

muscles and baring its teeth in a clear challenge. The black
stopped. Its eyes darted toward the vent, then back to the brown.
It retreated a step. It gave a low warning growl but nothing more.

The brown, encouraged by this, began to stalk forward. The black

stepped backward for each step the brown took.

Through the winding, jutting, low-roofed corridors, long and

short, narrow and wide, they continued this way. It became clear
that the black did not want a fight. It was not afraid exactly,
the brown beast sensed, for it didn't have the smell of fear and
its movements were not submissive. It simply wanted to walk away,
the way a father would leave a cub who was getting too aggressive.

This made the brown very angry.

It tried several times to dodge around to the left or right, to

get the black against a wall, but the black was sure-footed,
confident, and easily evaded such maneuvers.

The brown tried to use its spatial memory, its vague ideas of
shape and layout. It was not stupid—indeed, it was exceedingly
bright, if limited. It realized that it needed a place where the
black could no longer back away, but it couldn't exactly recall .
. .

It stopped growling long enough to sniff the air again. And that's
when it smelled the fire and its memory pulled up a vague outline
of that room, the room with the fire-thing: a box-shaped cave with
only one exit.

It began corralling the black toward the southeast corner of the

basement. The black continued to retreat, but now that pleased the
brown. If it could have, it would have grinned.

They reached the southeast corner along the main east-west

hallway. To the right was the opening to the furnace room. The
heat came through the doorway in rippling waves. Instinctually,
whether from the heat or a sense of the dead end in that
direction, the black wolf turned the corner without pause and
began backing down the north-south corridor, away from the furnace

The brown wolf tried to dodge around the black, to head it off—
make it turn back, but the black only mirrored the moves, which
made it back away faster. The brown slowed immediately, panicking.
It wasn't working! Now they were headed the wrong way!
The brown knew that time was against it. If they continued to back
around like this, soon the black would be close once more to the
night air opening. In the brown's current position, the black
could not be prevented from turning and making an escape.

And then, as they'd almost reached the stairwell leading up,

sounds clattered down on them—not just the sounds of the people
above, but other sounds— sounds of human feet on the stairs, low
and stealthy, unmistakable.

The black's calm was broken. It turned its head away from the
brown, trying to gauge if it could make it past the doorway before
the human arrived. The brown thought it could not, but if the
black ran fast, it might be able to startle the human enough to
get past it anyway. It decided to give the black another option.

The brown whined in mock fear. It sensed the black's head swing in
its direction even though its own eyes were trained on the stairs.
It whimpered again and began backing away itself, back, back. It
turned the corner back into the east-west hallway.

The brown waited there silently, every nerve humming in


The black came around the corner.

The brown stood its ground, its mock fear gone. Now it bristled
and snapped its teeth, its eyes full of hatred. The black turned,
confused, and began to go back down the north-south hallway, but
it stopped immediately and tensed, seeing something.

The brown heard a harsh human cry through the buzzing adrenaline
in its ears. It was instantly followed by a loud bang and a metal
smell. It knew what made the noise and the smell—a death maker,
human teeth. The black spun around again and ran into the furnace
room. The brown, not even pausing to see what was down the
hallway, followed at once.

Grace had let Leber out. She was moving the moment von Glower
disappeared through the auditorium door. As she unlocked the
Mittelloge, she mumbled to the detective something about that man—
that man changing, but he only looked at her like she was insane
and pushed past her, gun raised.

She followed Leber and Statter as they raced down the stairs. In
the auditorium the music went on, but those in the lobby were
certainly not of the mind that everything was all right.

"There was a dark-haired man," Leber shouted in German as he came

down the stairs.

An usher pointed shakily toward the basement stairs.

"And then this huge brown animal went after him!" This was spoken
by a woman in a black gown, her face so pasty it was like a white
sail over a black ship.

Leber looked at the woman, his face knit in confusion, then

glanced at Grace suspiciously. She realized that with the
spotlight and the confusion, he hadn't seen the creature on stage
at all. Would he have known immediately that it matched the
description of his killer?

"Is there another way down?" Leber asked.

Before Grace could decide how to answer, one of the ushers said
yes, and Statter was sent off with the fellow backstage. They were
going to use both stairs— try to corner whatever was down there.

"Wait a minute," Grace said. It was as if her words were swallowed

up by a vacuum. No one even blinked in her direction. They were
all watching Leber as he headed down the stairs.

And Grace realized that letting Leber out was maybe not such a
great idea. She hesitated a moment, frozen with confusion and
fear. Things seemed to be going progressively wrong, like a bad
idea rolling down a hill. Gabriel was down there too, and Leber
had a gun.

She went after him.

When Grace was halfway down the stairs, she heard a shout and
gunfire. She called Leber's name, but there was no response. She
flew to the bottom, her high-heeled feet keeping to the steps only
by sheer chance. She looked out into the hall, her dark eyes wide.

There was nothing to the north. To the south she saw Leber
disappear into the furnace room.

Leber's large, black-jacketed back blocked the door. By the stance

of his legs and the angle of his shoulders, Grace knew he was
holding the gun straight out. She prayed that what was in the room
was only one •and that it was not . . .

She pushed past him. He glanced at her sideways and shouted. "Get
back! Get out of here!" But she was looking with shock at what was
in the room.

They stood at the only exit. To her left was the coal furnace,
like a huge squatting fertility figure, its glass door showing
fire red dancing deep inside. Straight ahead, backed against the
cracked cement wall, was an enormous black beast, almost four foot
tall at the head, with long legs and a wide, muscled torso.

The black was snarling at Leber and now at her. It knew it was
trapped, and it was furious. It ignored the brown beast. It wanted
only the doorway behind the humans.
Grace tore her eyes away from the black and faced what she didn't
want to face. On the right-hand wall was a creature very much like
the first, though shorter and squatter with a mottled brown coat.
She looked at it, her eyes gazing right into its eyes.

Partially out of respect for his privacy, and particularly out of

respect for her own sanity, Grace had never seen Gabriel in the
Change—no one had seen him. He'd been left in the dungeon alone.
What she laid eyes on now was both more beautiful and more
horrible than she'd ever imagined. The beast was beautiful, the
way a wolf is beautiful, and more, because of the intelligence
that shone in it. And yet it was profoundly hideous too. Some
sense of the unnatural pervaded its being the way death casts an
almost visible veil of decay across the face of a man in his
deathbed. And there was something heinous deep in the eyes,
something heartless and inhuman and predatory. And that image was
answered by the teeth, which jutted and snapped and spoke of
mortal, fleshy things the way a surgeon's tools spoke of them.

Her emotions were like a grab bag of unassociated scraps. Part of

her was embarrassed that she had to see him like this; part of her
was concerned that he was here at all and of what might happen
next; part of her was overwhelmed with pity; and part of her
looked at that face and was terrified, terrified in a way that not
even the black could provoke, because she had no idea what he
would or wouldn't do, would or would not remember from his human
side, and the thought of being killed, of being slaughtered and
eaten by this, by him, was somehow so much worse than the mere
idea of being slaughtered and eaten at all.

The brown had been growling and snarling too. But when Grace
looked into its eyes, its snarl faltered briefly. Then it turned
its head away, its eyes wild and unknowing, and hunched down,
increasing its furious challenge toward the black.

Leber was swinging his gun from the black to the brown and back
again. By the expression on his face, Grace knew that he was not
only afraid, he was in a zone of denial and confusion where he
might do just about anything. He now focused the gun on the
brown, responding to its increased aggression even if it wasn't
aimed his direction.
"Don't shoot!" Grace shouted.

"Get out!" Leber screamed back.

There were only seconds, Grace knew. Should she shove Leber? Let
Gabriel escape? But that would only let the black escape too.
Her eyes raced around the room, trying to see anything at all
that would provide another option. And then, of course, she did.
She began to creep around Leber, staying close to the wall.
"Stay back!" he screamed at her again. Grace ignored him. It was
only a few feet to the furnace. The black glanced at her once,
but it remained focused on the man and the blocked exit. The
brown looked at her and it looked at the furnace too. It stopped
growling abruptly, licked its maw, and watched her with those
red, horrible, hungry eyes.

Grace reached the furnace, her heart pounding. She stretched her
hand around and tugged the glass door's latch. It unhooked
smoothly and swung out. She pushed it, hoping it would swing all
the way to the other side and stay there. It was a heavy door.
It did.
She looked back at the brown, and the brown looked at her.
Then the black leapt. She sensed the movement and turned her
head in time to see the muscled haunches unfolding, the body
elongating into the air. It was aimed directly at Leber, and its
arc would land it somewhere on his upper chest, knocking him to
the ground. Leber fired once into the air, wildly. Grace was
never to know what happened to that bullet. If it hit the black
at all, anywhere, she was never to know. For the brown was also
leaping. It had left the ground the moment it saw the black make
its move.

It happened so quickly, so very quickly. An instant after the

gunshot rang out, the brown's arc intersected the black's arc,
and the two collided in midair.

The brown rammed into the black's left side, its head lowered.
The black uttered a muffled grunt of surprise and sailed away from
the collision. It flew, like a wad of paper shot at a wastepaper
basket, right at the furnace. Its head and limbs bumped against
the edge of the gaping iron mouth, but its momentum was great;
they folded and disappeared into the inferno an instant after the

Grace raced around the furnace, slammed the door shut, and latched
it. She turned to see the brown beast dodge between the legs of
the flabbergasted Leber. Ungodly howls of anguish rose up behind
her. They echoed through the metal gullet, through the room,
through the soul, as if the pit of hell itself had opened.

Leber, his face almost comically lost, turned on heavy, numb feet,
as gracefully and swiftly as a pregnant cow getting up, and
stepped into the hallway. Grace followed, too late to keep him
from getting off one shot. But it didn't hit its target, anyone
could see that. The brown, still racing full tilt, skidded around
the corner at the end of the north-south hallway, paws scrambling,
and disappeared.

"Don't shoot!" Grace screamed, grabbing Leber's arm.

Statter came running breathlessly down a side corridor. His gun
was drawn and his face was a heart-hammering red. Leber looked at
him, then back at Grace, his face wiped clean of all expression.

He shook off her restraining hand. "I'll talk to you later," he

managed. Then he motioned to his partner, and he and Statter went
trotting off down the hall.

But they didn't look like they knew what they were doing, and
Grace thought there was little to worry about. The brown would
find someplace to go to ground in this labyrinth. For that matter,
he might already be changing, the curse slipping away into smoke.

She walked back into the furnace room. Behind the glass were
flames, engulfing flames. The howling screams had stopped. There
was the crackle of hungry fire and a dull thud. Something that
might have once been a human foot struck the glass lightly, like a
fetus kicking the walls of its womb. Then it fell away again into
the flames.

Grace turned and went back into the hall, closing the furnace room
door softly behind her.

He slept for forty-eight hours, on and on. Grace woke him at one
point, fearing he'd gone into a coma or back into some past domain
whence he couldn't return. But he surfaced readily enough when she
shook him, thanked her dryly for the interruption, then rolled
over and went back to sleep.

The cells of his body were changing in imperceptible ways beneath

the sheets.

When he finally got up, Gerde made him breakfast. Grace sat and
had tea while he ate, watched him with her steady, almond-shaped
eyes. He appeared to be in an almost giddy good humor, humming as
he filled his belly. She supposed he had a right to be.

She finally worked up her nerve and spoke. "Now that you're
feeling better, I, uh, I suppose I should be getting back to the

He sighed and put down his fork, filled his cup from a pitcher of
coffee on the table. "I wouldn't mind goin' back to New Orleans
myself. Visit for a bit." He took a loud sip. "Maybe we'll find
someone there to run the shop."

Grace's lips pressed into a thin line.

"Don't ya think, Grade?"

"And then you'll come back here?" she asked casually.

"Yup. There's still a bunch of work to be done in the library.

And, I confess, I haven't been doin' it."

"I'm sure Gerde can help you get it straightened out," she said,
looking down at her cup.

"What about you? You'd be ... hell, you know that's your thing. If
you wanna stay, that is. Or you can go back with me and then come
back later. ..." He put down his cup and stretched his arms in a
phony yawn. It was a sure sign of embarrassment.

She felt a deep burn color her throat. She didn't look up. "You
didn't want me on this case," she pointed out in a neutral voice.

He let out a long exhale and said nothing for a moment. "I didn't
want you in Munich, that's all. I just ... I was worried about ya,
I guess."

She studied him, her lower lip quivering. "You're full of shit."

"I'm serious." He rubbed the growth on his chin, not meeting her
eyes. "I remember what happened in New Orleans. I didn't want to
put either one of us through that again. I know it was selfish,
but that's honestly why I ... why I didn't have you join me there.
Bad reasoning, but it looks like you did better here in
Rittersberg anyway."

She scooted back the chair and folded her arms, her face
determined. "Look, I appreciate, Gabriel Knight, that you're the
strong, silent, independent type."

He made a brat sound with his mouth. "Silent?"

"And I appreciate your concern for my safety, if that's what you

call it. But . . . either I'm in or I'm out."

"I realize that."

"I'm in or I'm out," she repeated, giving him her stubborn chin.
"Full partners. Or I'll make other plans."

" 'Full partners'?" He laughed and laughed, bright and joyful. She
frowned, hurt at first, but there was no malice in the sound.
"God, Gracie, you are somethin'\"


He rose and came over to her chair, leaned down until his lips
were only centimeters from her tense little neck.
"You're in," he whispered. Then he strolled, with the cocky gait
of his, from the room.

Grace said nothing, but her hands trembled as she took another sip
of tea.

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